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Remove Features…

Introduction

This was one of the first Design Philosophies at Newton. Once we got our Home page to where we liked it, to where it was “training-lite”, we made a rule that we couldn’t add anything more to it. The rule was, “Before you can add a button you’ve got to remove one.” This rule has caused great consternation over the years, and for the Home page it has been broken once, and might get broken one more time.

The impetus for the rule evolved from the years we were designing and using other recruiting software systems. Eventually these systems were “improved” into perplexity: at some point so many features were added that the only people who could log in without getting freaked out were people that had used the software for years. Over time, I watched systems like this devolve into rather expensive places to store resumes, and witnessed eye-rolling during training seminars. Call me crazy, but I didn’t feel like walking down that well-worn road anymore.

So here goes, straight from the style guide, another dictum in our Design Philosphy….enjoy.

Before Adding a Feature or Button, try to Remove One.

Understand that the more options you give someone the longer it takes them to make a decision, and the longer it takes for them to learn our software. Instead of adding a new feature, try to see if first you can use it to remove an existing one.

As a designer, you look at the same screens every single day, so you automatically know where everything is and what everything does. Watch a new user login, if they move their mouse around frantically, it means you’ve probably reached overload. Realize this: every button, tab, link, menu, drop-down etc is a de facto question asking the user, “Do you want to interact with me?” And the user must ponder “yes, no, maybe,” for each element.

It seems almost counter-intuitive: fewer choices = faster. Perhaps this is why many software applications have gazillions of things you can do on every page. Problematically, systems like this take a lot of training, and each new feature serves to make New Users more frustrated. If you don’t believe me, try using Photoshop for the first time, without a manual.

Additionally, be watchful of putting power-user features in a prominent location on common pages. Prominency is great for Power Users (who would find them anyway), but New Users won’t know how to use them, so you’ll just flatten this person’s learning curve (or just erase the learning curve altogether).

As a bonus, keeping this rule in mind means that you’ll have more time to perfect existing features, and Development gets to spend more time making our product even more reliable.

There are few things more rewarding than when no one notices you removed a feature.

About Joel Passen

Joel is the Head of Marketing at Newton Software, a technology company that designs applicant tracking software for small and medium-sized employers. Joel has been involved with the intersection of technology and recruiting his entire career.