Getting Real: Forget feature requests 13 Sep 2005
66 comments Latest by Michael
Ok, so I’m positive this post will be misunderstood and we’ll be branded as arrogant, self-centered, customer-hating snobs. But here goes anyway…
When you launch your products, customers will send you hundreds or thousands of feature requests. Just take a look at the Basecamp Forum or the Backpack Forum — the feature request category trumps all the others. They’ll want everything under the sun. You’ll hear about “just this little extra feature” or “this can’t be hard” or “wouldn’t it be easy to add this” or “it should take just a few seconds to add this” or “if you added this I’d pay twice as much” etc. Of course we don’t fault them for making requests. We encourage it and we want to hear what they have to say. Most everything we add to our products started as a customer request.
They’ll post messages in the forums, send your emails, and find your IM address and hit you up there as well. They’ll fire requests at you faster than you can imagine. So what do you do with all these requests? Where do you store them? How do you manage them? How do you track all these requests? You don’t. Read them and then throw them away.
Yup, read them and throw them away. The ones that are really important will keep bubbling up. And those are the ones you’ll remember. Those are the important ones. You don’t need to track or remember everything — let your customers be your memory. They’ll remind you.
How did we come to this conclusion? When we first launched Basecamp we tracked every major feature request on a Basecamp to-do list. When a request was repeated by someone else we’d update the list with an extra hash mark (II or III or IIII, etc). Then one day we figured we’d review this list and start working from the most requested features down. Truth is, we never looked at it again. Our customers constantly remind us what’s important by making the same requests over and over again. There was no need to be analytical about it since it was happening in real time. You don’t forget what’s important when you are reminded of it every day.
So, ask for requests, read the requests, listen to your customers, and then forgot what they said. Let them remind you over and over and over again. That’s how you find the real gaps in your product. That’s how you’ll remember what new features are really worth considering.
And one more thing: it’s not just about the sheer number of requests (we don’t recommend adding something just because X# of people requested it), it’s about customers planting a seed in your mind. If they keep reminding you of something, it forces you to think about it. Maybe it is a good idea. Maybe it isn’t. But at least it’s important enough to consider if so many people keep asking for it.