Feature Requests at Dentally

Posted by James Harker on 21-Mar-2016 09:14:58
James Harker

Here at Dentally we receive dozens of feature requests per week so I thought I would share some of the reasoning behind why we (almost) always say no to each request.

The overwhelming majority of feature requests we receive are great ideas however a bunch of great ideas won't necessarily make great dental software. We started Dentally with the goal of being the best dental software on the market. Being the best dental software isn't about providing the highest number of tactically useful features which are somewhat related. It's about delivering cohesive dental software that is built within well defined parameters to provide a seamless dental software experience for our users.

Below, we'll explore some of the most common arguments as to why we should add a new feature as well as the reasons why we won't.

But it won't take long

This is probably the most common reason I hear. The amount of work involved shouldn't be a reason to include a new feature. Lots of bad features can be built very quickly. Additionally, there's no such thing as a small change. Even the simplest of features can involve hidden complexity and have unintended side effects that isn't initially accounted for.

But we can just make it optional

This is death by settings. Making features optional may hide the complexity from the default interface but the complexity is still everywhere else. Increasing complexity increases development time when needing to make changes to the codebase. Interfaces soon become messy as there is lots of conditional design and settings pages become a nightmare to navigate.

But everyone wants it

We're always cautious when someone falls back to raw numbers to justify building a new feature. Great features should be great in their own right and just because a lot of people think it would be useful doesn't mean that it's the right thing to build.
As Henry Ford famously never said:

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.

But our competitors already have it

That doesn't mean that we should build it. It could be a terrible idea. It could be something that they're planning on dropping. If we were to focus on what our competitors are doing we would forever destined to deliver "yesterday's technology tomorrow".

But a customer is about to quit

No customer can be more important that a good product. Building features on this basis leads to the perfect product for just one customer. Delivering additional value to one customer often comes at the cost of taking away value from other customers.

I hope you now have a better understanding of why we say no to feature requests at Dentally. I would still encourage you to continue to submit feature requests and get in touch. Just because we're saying no the request now doesn't mean that we're not listening. Each request that we receive is logged and reviewed by the team on a regular basis. A lot of great features in Dentally today are as a result of the great feedback we received from our customers.

If you'd like to read more about product management then I highly recommend this free book from Intercom. It's where the majority of the thoughts above are stolen inspired from.

Topics: Changelog, The Dentally Blog