When you’re working on creating a brand-new product that will drive adoption and foster engagement there are undeniably a multitude of considerations to juggle. There’s a lot of research, testing, and tweaking involved to ensure you’re filling a real need, delivering value, and doing the job people will (hopefully) hire your product to do. 

And so, when it comes time to add new features, it’s tempting to just implement them without doing all that work again. You probably figure people will just naturally start using the new feature you’ve come up with. After all, they’re already using your product, and you know your customers by now -- why wouldn’t they want a little something extra?

But the fact is, from your customers’ point of view, adopting a new feature involves adopting new patterns of behavior. And implementing that feature should be approached with the same rigor that you would employ when creating a new product from scratch.

Of course there are lots of pressing reasons to add new features to your product:

  • Value is evolving, not static. Your users’ needs will evolve over time, and that means your product will have to as well
  • If you stay static you won’t be competitive -- someone else will find a way to provide more value and your users will churn
  • You should always be on the lookout for ways to remove areas of friction your users face
  • Upsells are an important part of a viable growth strategy, and new features can form the cornerstone of an upsell package.

But new features should never get implemented on a whim, in a vacuum, or simply because someone thinks they sounded like a good idea. Your product didn’t happen that way, after all. (Or at least it didn’t if you’ve got a successful one on your hands.) New features should instead be the result of observed behaviors and clear unmet needs -- where are people experiencing struggles and obstacles? Where are there opportunities to provide more value?

So, just like with a brand new product, you need to uncover the answers to some specific questions about your proposed new feature(s).

  • Will it help people make progress in the job your customers are trying to do? (Of course, this presupposes that you understand that job.)
  • Do you understand the unmet need that this feature would fill?
  • Does it remove an area of friction your users have been facing?
  • Does it provide the opportunity for users to extract more value from your product?
  • Does it align with your customers’ definition of value and success? (As opposed to your own definition.)

And how do you go about finding these answers? You already know: You do it in the same way you determined the answers to these questions as they applied to your original product -- through research and testing. Simply put, in order to add successful new features or functionalities you have to do the same kind of research and follow the same processes you did when you were building your product from scratch. These include:

  • Go back to your Job Desirability Map, or whatever process you have in place, to help you locate areas of opportunity for additional value delivery. (We talk about Job Desirability Maps here.)
  • Conduct SLOW interviews with customers to help narrow down the features with the most potential impact to test. (We describe this process here.)
  • Conduct simulations with real users to ascertain whether or not your proposed new feature delivers as much value as you think it will.

And remember, once you launch this feature, in order to adopt it, your users will have to change their behavior to incorporate it into their processes. As we’ve discussed, for people to adopt a target behavior, three things must be present: motivation, ability, and a trigger. Ask yourself:

  • Will users be motivated to use this new feature? The higher the value, the higher their motivation will be. How will you convey its value? You should have determined through your research that it will be valuable, but you still have to clearly convey that value.
  • Will they have the ability to adopt this feature? In other words, have you made this feature easy to use and find?
  • How will you trigger them to use it? Try to combine triggers with messages that relate or explain the value they’ll derive.

Remember, when you add a new feature you're asking people to change their behavior patterns. So do yourself (and your users) a favor and implement that feature with the same careful consideration as you would a new product.