It is tempting to add more and more features to make your product stand out and differentiate it from the competition. While this can be an appropriate strategy at times, it carries the risk of creating an overly complex product with a vague value proposition and a poor user experience. The trick is therefore not to blindly add features but to explore which ones you can reduce or even eliminate. This post shows you how to do it.
A great tool for discovering opportunities to remove features is the Eliminate-Reduce-Raise-Create grid. The grid, which forms part of the Blue Ocean Strategy, encourages you to identify the key features that are used to compete in the marketplace, be it by your own product or the competitors. You then determine which of those features your product can eliminate and which it should provide to a lesser extend or in an inferior way. But that’s not all. The grid also encourages you to identify new and improved features that set your product apart. This leads to a matrix with four quadrants that give the grid its name: Eliminate, Reduce, Raise, and Create.
Let’s take a look at an example and apply the grid to the first iPhone, which was launched in 2007.
As the picture above shows, the first iPhone eliminated a number of smartphone features that were considered a standard or must-have back in 2007. These included different models to choose from, a physical keyboard and a stylus to write on the screen. Additionally, it reduced a number of features such as the voice and the camera quality and the email integration (no POP and no Exchange support), which its competitors excelled in.
But the iPhone also provided enhanced and genuinely new features as shown in the “Raise” and “Create” quadrants above. These include mobile Internet in form of the Safari browser, integrating the iPod with a mobile phone, a brand-new eye-catching design, and a revolutionary touch screen. Removing and weakening features helped Apple reduce time-to-market, resulted in an uncluttered, easy to use product, and made the product stand out.
Before you decide which features you are going to remove or reduce, ensure that you have a solid understanding of your target group and the problem your product solves or the benefit it provides. You will also benefit from a good portion of courage. It’s always easier to create a me-too product than to do something different. But “innovation is not about saying yes to everything. It’s about saying no to all but the most crucial features,” as Steve Jobs once said.