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The Balancing Act: Building New Features vs Improving the Existing Product Experience

Zack Swafford
March 3, 2023
minute read


As a product manager, one of the biggest challenges is deciding where to allocate resources. Should you focus on building new features or improving the existing product experience? This balancing act is a delicate one, and it requires careful consideration of a variety of factors.

The Benefits of Building New Features

Building new features can be exciting for both the product team and the end-users. It can help attract new customers, increase engagement with existing customers, and ultimately drive revenue growth. Furthermore, it can help keep the product competitive in a constantly evolving market.

Introducing new features can also help to address customer pain points that may have been overlooked in the past. By listening to user feedback and incorporating it into new features, you can build a product that better meets the needs of your customers.

At Dart, about half of the feedback we regularly get from users are requests for new features rather than improvements to existing ones. We always make sure to work on prioritizing those requests that rise to the top through repeated mentions or heightened sense of urgency/importance.

The Importance of Improving the Existing Product Experience

While new features are important, it's at least equally important to focus on improving the existing product experience. A poor user experience can lead to frustrated customers, increased churn, and a damaged reputation.

Improving the existing product experience can take many forms. It could involve simplifying the user interface, optimizing performance, or fixing bugs. It's important to constantly monitor user feedback and data to identify areas where the product experience can be improved.

We are typically in the habit of shipping fast on Dart. This means that a lot of the improvements that could be made are already known to us and planned for future updates. It ends up just being a matter of prioritization to determine which updates get made first. Again, the guiding principle here is to pay attention to user feedback when determining that prioritization.

Finding the Right Balance

So how do you strike the right balance between building new features and improving the existing product experience? It all comes down to understanding your customers' needs and priorities.

Start by prioritizing the most impactful improvements to the product experience. This could involve fixing critical bugs or addressing major pain points that are preventing customers from using the product to its fullest potential. These “critical alert” improvements should go right to the top of the stack, supplanting any goal around producing that next killer feature.

Once you've addressed the most pressing issues, you can then begin to focus on building new features that align with your customers' needs and priorities. It's important to approach this with a data-driven mindset, using customer feedback and usage data to guide your decision-making.

A lot of this may depend on the space that you are building in. Project management is a very competitive space filled with many entrants and sophisticated products. Because of that there is a high bar that we need to meet at Dart in terms of reaching feature parity, and that requires constantly pushing updated features. Your mileage may vary building tools in other, potentially less mature areas.

Moving Forward

The balancing act of building new features vs improving the existing product experience is a challenge that every product manager faces. While building new features can attract new customers and drive revenue growth, it's also important to focus on enhancing the existing feature-set to prevent churn and maintain customer satisfaction. By understanding your customers' needs and priorities, and approaching the decision-making process with a data-driven mindset, you can strike the right balance and build a successful product.

You won’t always get it 100% right, but by following these tips you’ll at keep the ship pointed in the right direction, and by iterating quickly you’ll be able to course-correct as needed.