Eating Breakfast with Three Arms: How to fight feature-creep

Annie Woodhead

What would it be like to eat breakfast with three arms? Could you hold your phone while cutting up your french toast? That would be pretty awesome.

Maybe you could feed your baby and yourself at the same time. That could make the day a bit better, for sure.

What about four arms? Well…that could be mind blowing!

But…Where do we stop?

In a call with a client, we were discussing a set of features that would enhance the main flow of their product experience by allowing users to track and follow items of interest. I had fallen into a rabbit hole and so had the client–the features were becoming a sub-application on the site. It was a slippery slope, a distraction from the main flow. Would users even notice, let alone use the new features? Would they miss features that we hadn’t put in, that have never EVER even existed? In short, if we gave them just a three-armed breakfast, would they hate us for not giving them four?

So it comes down to fighting featuritis in a non-existent product. Fred Wilson talked about this recently:

It turns out, like most success stories, the answer was simplifying the service. Taking features out. Reducing the value proposition to a clear and simple use case. This was not done in a vacuum. This was done by releasing a less than perfect product to the market, finding a few customers who wanted a less than perfect product, and then listening carefully to those customers to get to the ideal product.

In other words, stay at the happy user peak:6a00d83451b44369e200e54f5e894a8833-800wi.jpg

Look, it’s an ugly diagram, to be sure. But let’s overlook that, shall we?

Circulating Fred Wilson’s article in my office, one response was:

Harder when the client isn’t a startup. Just sayin’.”

Which is why I always quote my old professor Bruce Hannah:

Mock it up before you Fock it up.

Co-creation with users, low and mid-fidelity prototypes, deep ethnography and iterative engagements with users and your prototypes can help mitigate the risk of a launch. But it can also be a double-edged sword, enabling feature creep.

So in the end, it’s up to us all to decide if three arms for breakfast is enough.

Fortune cookie image courtesy of pc1oad1etter

Originally posted to

Annie Woodhead

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