Every feature is a hurdle

At IDEO we’re putting high resolution prototypes out in the real world to test ideas and design with real people in real situations.

In other words, we’re shipping product. Invoking the methodologies of a startup we can put our designs out in the wild and see how they respond under every day use.

This is great because it means we can move far more quickly than our clients could. We launch is days not months.

But when you ship product – even if it’s secretly a high resolution prototype – you start encountering other issues.

Features = barriers to use

Every single feature you put into an app becomes a barrier to use.

This should feel humbling/frustrating/counterintuitive to every interaction designer that reads this post. But every time you add functionality to a service you complicate it and force your users to make decisions. These decisions are, in part, evaluations of the service as a whole.

Do I really want to store my photos on this website? Do I really trust these guys to deliver on time? Do I really want to play this free game?

Questions your users are asking right now

The only reason Google is where it is today is because they stripped everything away from the experience and basically launched an MVP. There was zero friction from their interface, they got out of the way and before you realised you’d arrived on their site you’d already interacted and got value from them. And they still do the same today.

include only the features that people need to accomplish their goals

Google’s advice to developers

This problem is best highlighted by an innocuous feature we added to the app we’re building at the moment. We thought it would be useful to have the app capture a photo of each user. We could add it to their profile and it would help us track people and the data we’re building with.

But adding a photo is a hurdle. And a big one at that. People didn’t want to add one. And bear in mind that we’re paying our participants to be in our trial – so we have some licence to ask them to do certain things. But it forced people to stop and evaluate.

Worse for us, an incomplete sign up profile meant no data being captured and no design iteration happening.

Remove friction

When building new experiences, especially the crucial interactions around sign up and on boarding, make sure you have as little standing between you user and the core experience you want them to get to.

Every feature you add will cost you users and reduce your growth rate. Even if you think the feature is cool/nice/important think twice about it’s relevance and if it blocks your users from getting to the heart of your product.

Every feature you add is a hurdle for your next new user.