Bloat is Bad: Here's How to Get Rid of It In Your Own Product

You’ve probably been building your product for a while and somewhere along the line, things got a little bloated.

Your interface is cluttered. There are features that people don’t use. And your engineering team is wondering why they’re spending so much time on things few people use.

You’ve become an unfortunate victim of feature creep.

Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. But now that you’re aware of it, it’s time to cut the cruft and remove some features.

Removing features sounds scary.

What if customers become irate? What if you break customer workflows? What if you accidentally take down other parts of the app?

Admittedly, there are a few things that can go wrong, but with a little bit of planning, you can mitigate pretty much all of them.

Why Cut Features

De-bloating a product makes for a better experience for nearly everyone.

  • Users are less confused
  • The product becomes more focused
  • Customer support sees fewer help requests
  • Workflows become simpler
  • Developers are happy that they don’t have to maintain yet another feature

Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, amirite?

How to De-Bloat Your Product

So, how do you start on bloating a product?

Step one - identify the feature(s) you’d like to remove

Some decision criteria include:

  • unused features
  • features that don’t align with your product vision
  • complicated features
  • features that require a lot of engineering time

Once you’ve identified your feature or features to remove it’s time to move on to step two.

Step two - start sunsetting your feature

If you don’t have any usage analytics on the features that you would like to sunset now is the time to put them in place.

What you want to do is you want to get a list of the people who are using that feature and send out communications to them through multiple channels. Let them know that you’re going to be turning this feature off in the next X days, weeks or months.

Once you’ve given sufficient warning, you’re going to use a feature toggle to turn off the feature.

As for feature toggles, there are plenty of open source solutions, or you create your own functionality.

Upon toggling your feature off, the people who’ve relied on it are going to come out of the woodwork. They’re going to talk to customer support and ask for you to turn it back on.

You can then toggle that feature back on specifically for them.

Step three - turn off the feature

You now have your feature toggled off for almost everyone and toggled on for only a select few people who really want it.

Now it’s time to start thinking about how you’ll completely turn it off.

How you approach this step really depends on how many people have decided they still need this feature on and how critical it is to their workflow.

If there aren’t a lot of people using it, especially if these people aren’t your ideal user, consider ripping the band-aid off and just turning it off.

If you do have a bunch of people still using it and you don’t want to just turn it off right away, you can take a phased approach.

Leave it on for x weeks or months and then turn it off.

Or, just wait until the last person using it stop using it and then turn it off.

And then feel the glorious weight lifted as you pull the feature from your codebase entirely.

Happy streamlining.