Value Experience Over Features

As a software developer, it requires vigilance to temper my tendency toward joining feature frenzy. Like you, I like to build features.

My lazy inclination is to forget about asking why or how we justify the new-fangled feature that I’m itching to build.

Features represent our bread and butter, but we are also professionals. We want to be proud of our work.

Since

  • our business partners are utterly, in many cases, clueless;
  • we aspire to be better professionals; and
  • we identify with being craftsmen in the best Alan Cooper-ian sense,

it’s up to us to

Value experience over products & features.

How-To Value Experience?

Be an advocate for users. Politely question what’s motivating improvements. Are improvements driven from hard data or the soft notions of some muckity-muck over in operations? Resist your tendency to join the feature frenzy.

Let yourself be dragged kicking and screaming before you contribute to BAD user experience by layering in Over-Featured Confusion.

Over-Featured Confusion

Case in point of Over-Featured Confusion is LinkedIn’s new and improved Discussions feature.

As soon as LinkedIn released its groups concept, I founded two LinkedIn software groups (i.e., the global Agile .Net Practitioners and the local Twin Cities Software Consultants).

Laudably, LinkedIn has steadily rolled out features that have improved our group experience. Until now…

LinkedIn’s new Discussions feature amounts to a ball of confusion. The most glaring improvement is a horizontal slider bar with options to Like, Pass, Comment or More? as a mashup of blog, news and discussion items scroll past (horizontally).

At best, it’s confusing. At worst, it’s unusable.

  • May I Pass on this colossal FAIL by LinkedIn? No.
  • Did my feedback to LinkedIn about this improvement disappear into a black hole? Probably.

LinkedIn replaced simple & serviceable with confusing & dysfunctional.

Considerations

As design luminary Don Norman says

Forget the complaints against complexity; instead, complain about confusion.

Perhaps it’s excusable to transform something complex into something confusing. But it’s inexcusable to transform something simple, like a discussion board, into something confusing.

Google UX researcher Paul Adams says in his presentation Designing Experiences, Not Products

We need to understand how people think, and what motivates them to behave in certain ways. The best way to do this is to design from the outside in. To observe people in their own environment, probing them so that we understand their behavior. This understanding enables us to design things that are meaningful and valuable to people.

2 thoughts on “Value Experience Over Features

  1. Great post. I agree this is extremely important. Ironically I found your post in the PO Help Desk group on LinkedIn…scrolling by horizontally! Agree it is a bit of a mess.

    And coincidentally I had just posted my latest article there on shrinking the number of features you have in favor of simplicity (http://bit.ly/cxLbDx). Glad you are getting this idea out there too and I think our work is very complementary.

    Like

  2. Thanks Unbreakable! I dig the irony.

    In the TV Remote of discussion board selector items, somehow by the grace of dumb-luck randomness, you fingered that one molecule-of- a-button leading to this post.

    I'm either full of shit with my assertions about usability or LinkedIn's horizontally scrolling item selector is a marked improvement.

    Cheers,
    Bob.

    PS – I subscribed to the UnbreakablePO feed http://unbreakablepo.com/feed/

    Like

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