Software companies love to announce new features with great fanfare on their blogs. This is understandable given the thirst we cool geeks have for improved functionality. What is not understandable is when they remove existing features and appear to shove that under the carpet as if nobody will notice.
I am sure this happens all the time, but recent examples led to this post. It is also interesting that these two have something in common.
“Followed People” Widget in Feedly
I have already discussed how Google Reader lacks people discovery. In the past, I used a nifty little feature in Feedly to overcome this limitation in Google Reader. When you viewed a user’s profile in Feedly, it used to show who that person was following in Google Reader. I used this to discover several good people to follow. Good people are not just great at curating content, but also in filtering people to follow. This people discovery feature essentially helps you use people you already know, to help filter whom to follow.
For the past couple of months, I fiddled around with Feedly in vain, and could not find the widget that showed who the person was following. Ultimately, I resorted to asking for support on Get Satisfaction, where Feedly confirmed that the feature has been “removed”.
“Follow People” in BackType
When someone you like comments on a blog post, you have a double-incentive for reading that post. Not only did the person read the post, but found it worthwhile to comment on it. BackType offered a great way to discover interesting blog posts, as it let you follow people’s comments around the web.
For the past couple of months, I’ve been trying to use BackType’s follow feature in vain. I read and re-read their FAQ dozens of times, but the method explained in the FAQ just didn’t work. Again, it was confirmed on Get Satisfaction that the follow people feature has been “removed”.
Trimming Features Helps Make Great Products
Removing features can be as important as implementing new ones. It is essential to focus on enhancing the 20% features used by 80% of users, and constantly prune the rest.
Both Feedly and BackType are great products and I love them. I have promoted Feedly on the popular MakeUseOf blog. What I am not happy about is the lack of communication when removing features.
Transparency Builds Trust
Both Feedly and BackType are modern Web 2.0 apps/services. They both have a blog, which they use to announce new features in latest versions. They’re both on Twitter. Why aren’t these social media tools put to use for better communication?
I spent many hours trying to access these features in Feedly and BackType. I tried with different versions of different browsers, trying to troubleshoot the issue. A simple mention in a blog post would have saved me a lot of time. Backtype’s FAQ was outdated and incorrect, while Feedly doesn’t even have its own FAQ.
If it is perceived that removing features doesn’t make for good announcements, I think that would be very short-sighted. Since the features that are being discontinued are those rarely used, it doesn’t make any difference to the majority of your users. Those who use them are more satisfied if they are kept better informed. In cases like these, having to resort to GetSatisfaction doesn’t give me any satisfaction.