Halloween is not scary. I grew up on Fatal Frame, Resident Evil and Silent Hill. Zombie, monsters and a few gallons of fake blood cannot phase me. But there is one thing that as a developer really scares me: Feature Creep.
Feature Creep, or Featuritis, is the bane of any developer’s existence. It’s the ongoing addition of features to a once simply designed project. A website starts out simply — a branded experience with basic contact information. Until the clock strikes midnight and it changes from a simple project into a monster with enough features to make the most web-savvy user confused.
At first, it is just one additional feature disguised as a necessary, value add. Until that one feature becomes 12 and good user experience falls by the wayside.
Here at Untold, we see it every day in our own projects. But it isn’t just websites. From software to tech products, the victims are endless.
A perfect example from Fast Company: “One of the first technology critics to call attention to the existence of the Feature Creep was New York Times columnist David Pogue, who famously demonstrated to a rapt audience at the 2006 TED conference what happened when he opened every possible toolbar in his Microsoft Word program–there was no room on the screen for the primary value-adding function of composing a simple text document.”
Even Apple seems to have fallen prey in their most recent unveiling. The new bigger iPhone 5 should not have passed the simplicity test and the iPad Mini sacrifices user experience to reach an uncommitted audience. I can just see Mr. Jobs cringing at the disregard for vision and the cutting of corners. And that neither fit in his hand.
So we know what is is, but what can we do? A few things:
1. One is that it is unavoidable; there will be unforeseen issues. Sometimes, you need to roll with the punches.
2. Early prototyping and planning will save you in the long run. The more flushed out the prototype, the more likely to avoid surprises down the road.
3. Keep it simple, stupid. Adding features to a website or product does not make it better. Stick to your original goals. Move forward, not back.
Image source: Codinghorror