What Is a Product Feature?

The best products are those that have the best features. This article discusses what features are, how they’re different from products and how to make them.

What Is a Product Feature?

A product feature is a specific aspect of a product that’s designed to address an individual need in the marketplace.

A feature can be anything from fuel efficiency to automatic headlights if we’re talking about cars. It differs from the design of a car due to its focus on one goal as opposed to multiple. The car is the product, fuel efficiency and automatic headlights are the features.

In software, a feature is a component of the product that’s essential. You can’t have a document software without a grammar-checker, or font choices and so on and so forth. Features make the product complete.

The Best Features Are Designed for Your Needs

When designing a feature, you have to ask yourself what the needs of the end-user are.  

It’s important to design features that have a clear purpose and deliver on what the user expects. 

If you don’t meet their needs, users will get frustrated and find another product with more effective features for them. 

Features vs Products

It’s easy to confuse features and products with each other. The difference between a feature and a product is a subtle one.

A feature is part of the product, but it’s not enough to be all that you buy from a company or for your needs in general. 

Features make a user’s decision on whether they want your software over another. 

It’s easy to confuse features and products because they are so close to each other. 

Yet having the best features collectively is what makes a product so great.

How Can I Make Features Today?

There are several ways to make features. It depends on what your methodology is for developing the overall product.

In product development, popular methodologies include agile, scrum, kanban and waterfall.

Agile Development

Agile methodology is a product development strategy that favors frequent releases, close customer collaboration and working software over comprehensive documentation.

It is an iterative process with short cycles of planning, developing and testing the product. 

The flow of events in agile methodology starts from feasibility testing and ends with monitoring customer feedback. 

Note that the other methodologies described below, including scrum, kanban and feature-driven development are types of agile methodologies. 

Scrum

In product management, scrum methodology is a framework for the iterative, incremental and time-boxed delivery of features in a project. It is an agile methodology that emphasizes moving fast to market with minimum delay. 

It also emphasizes rapid customer feedback which helps shape future releases or projects. 

Scrum is a type of agile methodology. The difference between agile and scrum is the level of detail. Agile is more general, while scrum specifies how the project is run and what to expect. 

Scrum makes sure that everything stays on track by setting up a set of roles for team members: product owner, designer or engineer, developer(s), tester(s) and more. 

Kanban 

Kanban methodology is a lean approach to product management. It is often used in software development. 

It’s a system that spells out all the steps needed to plan work ahead of time instead of doing it as it comes up.

There are seven stages in the kanban methodology, beginning with a product feasibility test and ending with repeating that step and all the others.

Additionally, if you’ve ever seen a visual on developing a product, it is more than likely a kanban board. A kanban board can be simply understood as a physical or virtual board that look like swimlanes where you can move features across the board from idea, to in progress, to completion. 

Kanban boards are a great planning tool for developing features. They can help you keep your work organized and identify what needs to be completed next.

Kanban boards are an especially helpful tool when it comes to managing tasks during development cycles because they provide insight into which items need more attention than others based on their position on the board at any given time, while also providing visibility across all stakeholders. 

This ensures every team member has up-to-date information about different aspects of a project’s status without having to just access one person’s perspective–making collaborative efforts much easier!

Waterfall

Waterfall methodology is a stage-based developmental framework, where the entire product’s development is completed in linear stages. Unlike agile frameworks that deliver iterations of the product and are continuous processes based on user feedback. 

Waterfall takes a linear approach to delivering the finished product; updates can only be incorporated after each phase has been completed with no flexibility or changes until then.

Waterfall provides a more rigorous documentation process than agile, and it has been adopted less in recent years due to the increased emphasis on customer-centric product development.

Waterfall requires more stringent documentation that will be obsolete with future updates; however, its rigor makes implementation easier for those experienced who are not well versed in coding languages or programming skills.

Who’s Responsible for Designing the Feature?

The responsibility of making the best feature lies on the team. The team will always be a mix of designers, software engineers, product managers, product owners and sometimes marketers.

The leader of the product team is usually the product manager or product owner. 

What’s the difference between product managers and product owners?

The difference is that product managers are in charge of the overall strategy, while the owners take care of the development.

However, there is often a close relationship between these two roles. They work together on every important decision for the product.

What’s the Best Methodology for Shipping Features?

Trick question: there isn’t. It’s dependent on who’s working on features. All methodologies have an emphasis on researching the customers’ needs, developing as quickly as possible, analyzing user behavior, iterating the product’s features and repeating that process.

Tips for Making the Best Features

In this section, we’ll discuss methods that companies do in order to make the best features.

Affinity Grouping

In product development, affinity grouping is “the practice of participants brainstorming their ideas and then grouping those ideas into shared similarity categories.” Participants then vote on affinity groups that they created.

Affinity grouping is a specific method for collecting feedback on anything via votes. Collecting feedback via votes is a good way to build features. The feature won’t be good without information on its usability by stakeholders.

Have a Project Roadmap

How is it possible to make a killer feature without planning its development? It isn’t possible.

This is where having a project roadmap comes in.

A project roadmap is “a visual outline of all the major milestones to be accomplished during the product development. It helps to provide clarity over what the next step should be and helps to visualize the end picture of the project.”

Product managers create roadmaps to make sure that the right features get built at the right time. A good way to do this is by creating an outline of what will be created and when it’ll happen. This gives stakeholders on the team confidence in how they’re working.

Your roadmap will have all the steps it takes to produce all of your features. 

Have a Release Plan

A release plan is “a way to communicate the details of the features in a product’s upcoming release or series of releases.”

It helps teams make decisions about what to build next. Adding a release plan is one of the best ways for product managers to get their team in sync with what they want to be working on and when they want it done.

Product managers should create an outline of all features, along with milestones for each feature, so that stakeholders have an idea of when they’ll be released.

Having release plans is an ongoing part of being a product manager. If you only have one release plan per feature you make, you’re more than likely not doing your job. The best products are iterated which means their features are iterated, too.

Iterate Your Features

Speaking of which, all features in the product should be iterated for users. You should iterate features because that’s how you learn about what your customers need and want.

Your customers’ wants and needs will always change. Especially in the technology industry.

New phones are released every year. Along with them, new features are rolled out on a monthly basis and bugs and issues are fixed on a daily basis. 

If you are not iterating the features of your product, you are behind.

Collect Data on Your Features

It’s impossible to iterate on your features if you don’t have data on user behavior.

User behavioral data includes how your features are used the most and their engagement rates.

You should know that without this data you can’t improve your product or iterate it at all.

Companies like Google collect data on their users’ behavior to make sure users always have a better experience using their products.

Optimize the User Experience

Thinking about the user experience is pivotal when designing the features of a product.

User experience is a combination of your product’s ease-of-use, simplicity and the features that make it work.

User experience is important. If a user doesn’t enjoy using your products then they won’t be loyal.

The best way to improve a user’s experience is through iterating on features and making sure they are usable. 

You should always try new ways of improving your product so you don’t fall behind as many companies have in recent years.

Beware of Vanity Metrics

As your features are developed and are used, it’s easy to mistake that your product’s use is because of how good a feature is. 

Vanity metrics are metrics that are often used to measure the success of a product or feature, but in reality, have no real value.

The most important metric is user retention rate and it can take up to six months before you see that happen. Use metrics, such as retention rate, that have real value when building product features.

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