Wednesdays are simplicity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
From Wikipedia: “Feature creep is the ongoing expansion or addition of new features [that] go beyond the basic function of the product and so can result in over-complication, or “featuritis”, rather than simple design.”
It’s something I dread hearing during software testing: “It’s wonderful. But could you add…” Inevitably it means I am going to be adding things into a piece of software that are not in the original agreed-upon idea.
Why Is It Bad? Aren’t Extras Good?
In terms of software, it means that a simple piece of software, written to do something, has now become diluted with other features. Inevitably, this can lead to breakages because the other features were tacked on and never designed into the original product.
A prime example of feature creep would be a corkscrew I saw recently. It was attached to the handle of a manual can opener. While you might think it’s not a really bad idea, adding a corkscrew is unnecessary to the purpose of the original device (opening cans). The example I saw would also leave you with the point of the corkscrew embedded in your hand if it weren’t perfectly tucked into the opening provided.
You’re probably wondering why I bring this up. The thing is, we often let things creep into our lives that are not necessary and complicate what we are trying to do.
Examples of Life Feature Creep
Here are some things that might ring a bell:
- A cell phone that has so many features that you find it difficult to make a call
- A calculator meant to handle every type of calculation — plus graphing — when you need a simple arithmetic machine
- A printer that scans, faxes, copies and hooks up to a camera but requires five screens to produce a printout
- A coffee pot that requires consulting a manual every time the power goes out
- An alarm clock that releases aromatherapy with no way to turn it off
- An automatic shower cleaner that requires you to remove everything from the shower before it is used
- A travel toothbrush case that sanitizes a toothbrush by plugging in for 2 hours
Anything sound familiar?
How To Spot Feature Creep
The best way to spot feature creep in your life is to look at what something is needed to do, and compare that to what it can do. In the example above, the calculator where you need arithmetic is overly complicated by graphing, business functions and statistics.
When something meets its intended purpose, but sacrifices it to the extra features, that is an example of feature creep.
Not All Features Are Bad
I just want to take a moment to make a point here: not all features are bad. After all, if you use them, they are useful to you. But if you don’t use them, they are clutter, and can impede your productivity.
If you use all the applications on your Blackberry, then the device is suited to you. However, if all you ever do is call home from your Blackberry, why have all the extras?
Feature Creep In Productivity
Sadly, many productivity systems have feature creep built into them. Just about every major print planner out there, from Daytimers to Frankln Covey to the PocketMods and DIY planners, have additional “pages” for you to track things. Now it’s all well and good if you use them — but many of us, looking for a better way to do things, will buy/print them, and try to use them, thereby complicating our lives.
If you need an hourly calendar, use an hourly calendar. If you have two appointments a month, don’t try to use an appointment calendar. You’ll be putting in too much effort.
How To Eliminate Feature Creep
The best way, after finding feature creep, is to do away with the features you don’t need and that are complicating your life.
If your aroma-therapy alarm clock causes you to wake up sneezing, trade it in for one that is less odoriferous. If all you need to do is print from your computer, opt for a printer model that does just that.
Match the features to your needs, and not on what it can do.
I make a conscious effort to stop feature creep from happening at work, because experience has shown me that they just cause headaches down the line.
I’m getting better and recognizing feature creep in my life as well.
What about you? Can you think of anything in your life that has suffered feature creep?
Photo by chadmiller