How to Avoid Feature Creep With Your Digital Product

By Hans Lambert Pedersen

Feature creep (scope creep) can become a common issue during digital product design and development. Discover how your business can avoid it easily, continue adding value, and avoid churn.

When creating a digital product, it’s natural to make amendments after the initial launch and user feedback. But if we find our product is not as effective as we hoped, sometimes we think the reason is that something’s missing.

However, overcompensating is the quickest way to feature creep and costly mistakes. It’s one of the main reasons why around 70-90% of digital projects fail.

So, what do we do? In this article, we explore the impact of feature creep and explain how you can avoid it with your digital product.

What is feature creep?

In the digital product world, feature creep is defined as having excessive features affecting product usability.

Other terms for feature creep include:

  • Project creep
  • Software bloat
  • Creeping featurism
  • Requirements creep
  • Scope creep

But regardless of the title, one thing’s for sure. You don’t want a “creep” associated with your digital product.

Feature creep can lead the project or product to become clogged, cumbersome, and not user-friendly. The end result? Higher risk of user dissatisfaction and increased churn.

We can forgive ourselves, as it’s an instinct to improve something which isn’t working. But by fixing one problem, we can quickly add another. Instead of removing issues, we increase complications with more features affecting the usability of our product.

In our efforts to remedy the situation with additional features, the product has developed excessive traits and unnecessary complexity. And without realising, we’ve unconsciously removed ourselves from the initial simplistic brilliance which had us so excited in the first place.

So, whenever creating a successful digital product, the key is to prioritise the overall usability and remember the success of your product is defined by how well your user uses it.

UX is everything. And UX is exactly the thing that feature creep is driven to destroy.

How to avoid feature creep?

Knowing how to avoid feature creep is vital to sustainable, long-term growth of your digital product

There are many steps when designing, developing, and launching a successful digital product. But with the many stages, countless opportunities can appear to overcomplicate every element.

From thorough market research to creating a wire framework and fixing bugs, the ability to avoid feature creeping is a test of expertise and discipline.

Over-complicating proceedings is an easy mistake, especially when throughout the journey, there are teams of individuals trying to make their mark. 

Avoiding feature creep can be achieved by facilitating the following four strategies during your product journey:

1. Planning

To avoid “feature creeping” into your digital product and clogging up your UX, conduct a solid plan from the start. Implementing a straightforward product strategy with all members involved in the product design, development, and launch will cement the product features.

Once you've established a solid plan, ensure all product features are bound by a contract and agreed upon by all members involved.  

The emergence of feature creep is the result of poor planning. Therefore, it’s essential to develop a healthy consensus across all personnel regarding all product features before you begin designing the wire framework.

2. Utilise an MVP

One of the best ways to simplify the process and manage your product development is to build an MVP (Minimum Viable Product).

By developing an MVP, you can get a reduced version of your product to market faster and see if it passes the feature creep test. Or if possible, you can aspire to build an MLP (Minimum Loveable Product).

3. Consistent communication

Opening a clear line of communication from the beginning will ensure all members involved in the project understand the parameters.

If everyone knows the plan and what’s expected, clogging features down the line shouldn’t become an issue.

The more people you have involved in your digital product creation, the more contrasting views may appear. Remember to keep communication as consistent as possible and prioritise your consumer’s satisfaction before anyone else.

4. “Shiny object syndrome”

Shiny object syndrome is the way our brains think about a new idea. We get excited but forget about it as soon as the next new thing takes its place. In other words, it’s having a fickle mentality, and we can apply this as the psychological foundation causing feature creep.

Just like a new idea can capture our imaginations, so can a new feature in a digital product. Losing a sense of the value of our product can be overshadowed by exciting new features. But the value of the product is what matters most.

How to deal with scope creep

If it’s too late and feature creep has already clogged your product, here are some steps you can try to save the situation:

  1. Resurface the product scope – Remind members of the project of what was included in the initial scope and try not to drift away from the original idea.
  2. Establish a change control process – Analyse any change requests with all senior members of the project.
  3. Set a schedule – Break down each task into manageable chunks of allocated time.
  4. Avoid “gold plating” – Remove the temptation to supply additional ‘value’ to the product with 'improved' features.
  5. Reference past products – Use successful/unsuccessful past products as a basis for your process.

Don’t be a creep

Feature creep is a common issue found in digital product design and development. Whenever we launch a product, we’re bound to encounter minor fixes or bugs, but solving these issues with improvements to our project shouldn’t come at the cost of clogging and corrupting our product.

At Stoked, we remind all our clients to try and not drift away from the initial idea. After weeks and months of work, it’s easy for discussions to go astray, and temptations to “gold plate” new features to take control.

Staying focused on the original idea is the key. From the blueprint to the design and development, remembering to keep things simple and usable is essential to producing a successful digital product.

So, if you have an exciting idea to create a digital product or suspect you may be experiencing feature creep, get in touch with us. As a company, we’ve founded our reputation on building various simplistic and innovative digital products for numerous clients.

You can discover the success of our work via our case studies, and enrich your digital product understanding by reading more of our blogs.