When to add features with Hosted Software

Michael Payne | April 18th, 2007 | , ,

Hosted software has so many benefits that this post is not intended to defend Software as a Service, but rather discuss our process for adding features. One of the amazing yet very tricky things about hosted software is growing and evolving the software without making it bloatware or getting pulled into overly customizing it. Once we got the core feature set built, we have been very slow to add new features. We have spent more time tuning and streamlining the core than growing the core. I imagine someone will read this and say that’s crazy and that we have to keep aggressively growing Intervals. I would say no. Evolving it yes, refining it yes, but aggressively adding features is dangerous business.

We start with the mission and primary purpose for Intervals. What problem is Intervals solving and what makes it unique and compelling? Task and Time tracking are at the core of what makes Intervals what it is. The simplicity of tracking your time on the actual items you work on is at the heart of Intervals. That combined with the micro fine time analysis that anyone can understand. Intervals does a lot more than tasks and time though. For example, tons of reports on the health of your business and projects, project management, document / file storage, and some light accounting functionality (payments, expenses, etc.).

When we are presented with a new feature or think of our ourselves, here are a few of the questions we ask:

  • Does this feature help achieve the mission of Intervals or steer it in the wrong direction?
  • How deep does the new feature reach? We want to make sure we don’t underestimate all of the hooks.
  • How much complexity does the feature add? Does it enhance or detract from the user experience?
  • Is it worth the complexity? We always error on the side of simplicity whenever possible, but we do not believe in ultra simplicity. Sometimes there are necessary complexities so we try to smooth them out and make them as digestible as possible. Modules in Intervals are a perfect example of this. We cannot live without them, but when you are new to Intervals they might not make much sense. We deliberately made Intervals work in a way that if the value of modules isn’t immediately clear they do not get in the way. One day when enough data is accumulated their value becomes very clear.
  • How many of our customers will benefit from the new feature?
  • Thumbs up / thumbs down- We ask our close customers and power users of Intervals to give the feature a thumbs up or thumbs down. Forcing a yes or no is a great way to force the issue on how valuable a feature is.

Our goal is to make Intervals the one service that a small business like ours needs to get all of its work done and learn valuable lessons about where all of the time and effort is going. That is a lofty goal especially since so many businesses have different ways of getting their work done, but we committed to keeping Intervals easy to use.

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A collection of useful tips, tales and opinions based on decades of collective experience designing and developing web sites and web-based applications.

What is Intervals?

Intervals is online time, task and project management software built by and for web designers, developers and creatives.
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John Reeve
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John Reeve

John is a co-founder, web designer and developer at Pelago. His blog posts are inspired by everyday encounters with designers, developers, creatives and small businesses in general. John is an avid reader and road cyclist.
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Jennifer Payne
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Jennifer Payne

Jennifer is the Director of Quality and Efficiency at Pelago. Her blog posts are based largely on her experience working with teams to improve harmony and productivity. Jennifer is a cat person.
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Michael Payne
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Michael Payne

Michael is a co-founder and product architect at Pelago. His contributions stem from experiences managing the development process behind web sites and web-based applications such as Intervals. Michael drives a 1990 Volkswagen Carat with a rebuilt 2.4 liter engine from GoWesty.
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