How to prioritize features in a smart way

Are you a user experience designer who gets to deal with lots of user requirements? A designer who has to convince the customer they can’t have all the features they can think of? This post is for you.

How to prioritize features in a smart way - title image

Mike Monteiro said it well: “A good designer finds an elegant way to put everything you need on a page. A great designer convinces you half that shit is unnecessary.”

But how to convince the customer? How to know which features are necessary? The following three tips will help. I picked them up from this article years ago and have been using them since.

If you have existing user data or can collect new data from user research, web metrics or discussions with the stakeholders, here’s what to pay attention to in the data:

1. The frequency of use

Ask yourself:
How many users would use the feature and how often?

How to find out:
Web metrics is one good source for this type of information.

What is high priority:
The features that many use often.

2. The importance of the task

Ask yourself:
What are users’ most important tasks? Is the feature relevant in them?

How to find out:
Observe how the task is currently done. Is it currently a central, primary task? How difficult is it? How would the new feature change this? Would it help? Would it change anything?

What is high priority:
The features that help in completing the most important tasks.

3. The severity of the problem

Ask yourself:
How serious is the problem the feature would solve?

How to find out:
Observe the current use: How many users currently suffer from this problem? What kind of consequences does the problem have (small, medium, big?) How often does the problem occur? Is there a workaround to the problem?

What is high priority:
The features that solve the most serious problems.

Be smart in prioritization

It’s temping to prioritize based on the loudest opinion or the least amount of implementation effort. I know, I’ve been there.

But try to prioritize those features that

  1. many users use often,
  2. help to achieve the most important user tasks, and
  3. solve the most serious problems for users

That’s how you make informed decisions that truly have an impact on users’ lives.

Cartoon illustrating the importance of prioritizing features

p.s. More UX cartoons here!

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