Killer Features

Some products have 'killer' features. These features are so frustrating that they kill my desire to use said products. Some examples:

  • A mobile app or Facebook Connect website asks for absurd permissions. "To use this post-it app, please give us access to your SMS history, your phone calls, your address book, your wallet, and your fingerprint." Result: I uninstall the app or leave the website, then go look for alternatives.
  • A sign-up form enforces a draconian password policy. "Your password must be 12+ characters, and must include at least three digits, two Wingdings, and one ancient Aramaic proverb." Result: I comply when I set the password, get frustrated at having to use "Forgot Password" each time I return to the site, then go look for alternatives.
  • I get an email without an unsubscribe link, or with an unsubscribe link that requires logging in and navigating privacy settings. Result: I try to log in to update my email preferences. If I forgot my password, I mark the email spam so that I don't see emails like it in the future. I also mentally blacklist the website as "annoying and spammy."
  • When joining a GoToMeeting conference call, I have about 6 seconds to enter a 9-digit PIN. If I've only managed to enter 7 digits before time runs out, GTM abruptly hangs up on me. Result: whenever someone invites me to use GoToMeeting, I ask them if we can use something else.
  • YouTube keeps asking to use my real name, which I don't want to do. Result: I've started uploading videos to Vimeo instead.

The lesson here is that poorly placed friction points can ruin an otherwise great product. Look at GoToMeeting: if you think about it, it's an amazing technology. Three people who are thousands of miles apart can join a virtual meeting, share their screens with each other, share comments and links via text chat, and talk on the phone — all at the same time! For free. How great is that? And yet, because the experience of joining a meeting is frustrating, I cringe every time I see a GTM invite.

I know, I know, #firstworldproblems, right? Right. If you're providing a service with lock-in, like an enterprise product that's forced on all employees by management, then friction is fine. People will resent it, but they'll put up with it because they won't have a choice. However, if you're in a market where users have many alternatives to choose from, your funnel is going to suffer. You'll have fewer sign-ups, lower engagement, and higher churn. A smooth user experience is very important. Startups should track user behavior, find clear points of friction and frustration, and eliminate them. you really need to force users to use unhackable passwords? Would the world end if you gave someone an extra 5 seconds to enter a meeting PIN, or if you let them post videos under an alias? No, probably not. Don't let decisions like that impede the adoption of your otherwise great product.