Search this site:


July 13, 2005 11:05 AM

Broken: Featuritis

Featuritis is broken.


It IS broken, but it's also a case of users getting what they ask for.

When Microsoft gets feedback for Office, it invariably takes the following form:

"Office is too big and slow and bloated! It should be smaller, and leaner, and have less features. Oh, and we'd also like it to do this, and this, and this. Can you add those in the next version?"

All the users want THEIR features, they just don't want all the others. The problem is that big products like Office have multiple customers with very different needs.

Posted by: Grant Bugher at July 13, 2005 12:19 PM

"So again, why does this[too many features] happen so often?

Our guess is fear."

hmmm, i was gonna say wanting to make lots of money

Posted by: leijiwgli at July 13, 2005 02:03 PM

"All the users want THEIR features, they just don't want all the others. The problem is that big products like Office have multiple customers with very different needs."

Quite true. The trick is in how the user *perceives* the features they don't use. Adobe's InDesign is a stunningly powerful program, but I never feel like the 2/3 of the features I don't use are in any way affecting my ability to do the things I want easily and elegantly. When I discover things in InDesign that I know I'll never use... it doesn't bother me (or virtually anyone else). Yet so many people complain about the bloat in Word.

The art is in crafting the software so that users are happy about the way *their* chosen features work, and they're blissfully unaware (or at the least, unbothered) by the features they don't use or want.

This is an achievable goal, and if MS keeps getting complaints about Word bloat, they can't blame it on the users. Users don't complain about the absolute number of features, or the presence of features they don't use, unless they perceive those features to be hurting their own experience with the program.

Then again, I suck at Word so I'm biased : )

Posted by: KathySierra at July 13, 2005 02:32 PM

For the past few semesters, anytime I have to write term papers, I do it in Notepad, and then copy/paste it into Word. The reason for this is that Word tries to think for me more and more with each subsequent version of this unholy product.

It's not the menu options that drive me nuts (I avoid using them if at all possible, they're confusing, non-intuitive, and the location of everything changes from version to version). It's the automated features I hate.

If I outline things by preceding items with "1", "2", etc, it will try to put subsequent numbers in outline form by indenting them. I didn't ask for them to be indented, now I have to mess around with menu items and toolbar buttons to get it justified with the left margin again.

If it doesn't recognize a word I type in, it will try to change it to a word it knows in many cases. If you put the letter "i" on its own, it will capitalize it whether you want it to or not. You have to trick it to get a lowercase "i", and I shouldn't have to fool my software to get it to do what I want.

And why is it that proper names register as errors with Spellcheck? If it's not the first word of the sentence and it has a capital first letter, consider it a proper name that MAY NOT be in the dictionary and don't annoy me with that red squiggle. It almost never has the last name of people I know in its dictionary. Imagine that.

Posted by: Manni at July 13, 2005 02:47 PM


I agree this is a pain, but you can turn all of that off.

In Word, see these dialog boxes (including each tab)



Just uncheck what you don't want. You would think MS would make the default to have everything off to start with, but then people would complain all the features had been taken away. :-)

Posted by: willswords at July 13, 2005 04:10 PM

Well duh! Haven't we known this since the percolator/toaster/waffle iron? from like, the fifties? Tell me something i don't know. C'mon, MH. Petition Microsoft against featuritis. I'll sign it.

Posted by: Bob at July 13, 2005 04:37 PM

personally i have had 0 problems adjusting in MS Word. And i jumped from Office 95 to Office 2003, thats a pretty big jump right there, and if you know what you're doing, the transition problems are minimal.

Posted by: Dragon at July 13, 2005 04:45 PM

Broken. I bought an amplifier. Got the version with the least number of features hoping that would help. Sorry. In the old days there was a volume knob and a source selector and on/off, and some had treble/bass and pan. This thing has a bunch of buttons and a manual. Can not figure it out. It constantly resets itself so I have to go through a 30 minute procedure of reading the manual and then pressing buttons to get it back to sounding normal, otherwise everything sounds wrong because it defaults to assuming I have 6 speakers.

Posted by: J. Scott at July 14, 2005 01:41 AM

Hmmm. I've heard about this problem in that one BMW car that's so high-tech, voice-activated, etc. that you need a small matchbox-sized starter chip to start it. You even need to give the valet instructions to use it! Too many features is a bad thing; so is too few.

Posted by: Tricky at July 14, 2005 07:31 PM

Someone is boud to shoot me for saying this. But I have never had a problem with any Microsoft product save for Windows ME which was replaced with 2K and XP, I no longer have that computer because it was too slow. I've never had any hardware problems either. I honestly do not understand what so many people have against Windows and Microsoft products in general, they work perfectly for me. And no, I was not paid to say that.

Posted by: Jon at July 14, 2005 10:33 PM

What's going on with featuritis is that the software giants are *NOT* marketing to the user of their products.

Rather, they are marketing to the managers that are the ones who actually decide what to buy.

Posted by: Loren Pechtel at July 17, 2005 02:53 PM

I have a program with major featuritis: Cakewalk. It is a program used to write music. All it would need is a view that lets you work with a music staff and choose instruments, right?

Apparently not. You also have the fancy "audio," "piano roll," and "console" editor options - none of which I ever use. The software even gives you the option to write *programs*!

Even when it does give you a basic music staff, it has to be complicated. The *default* setting for measuring time is to divide beats into 120 units! Also, choosing instruments is amazingly user unfriendly. You have to choose the channel you want, the MIDI voice file you want, the instrument bank you want . . .

These two things, though, give testimony to the pure obnoxiousness of the program. (1) The instruction manual is 596 pages long! (2) This web page gives instructions on how to save projects in audio files (it normally only lets you save in .mid):

Even though I have the program, the instructions make no sense to me.

Ah well. I still have managed to figure out how to use the program well enough to use it, but I will never use most of the features. The program is certainly broken.

Posted by: Kevin at July 18, 2005 06:19 PM

someone said"...why does everyone hate Microsoft"

i think that's because there are so many more windows users. as my apple loving friend tells me, there are 20mil apple users.

i don't know how many windows users there are it would take to long to find out but i think the percentage of users to complaints would be the same for both apple and Microsoft.

well i love ms, i have had the choice many times of which computer to use and i always go with ms.

i recently upgraded my computer and had no problems.

one thing that i disagree with is that you cant do anything to a mac, you cant open it and a a TV card, a hd, another CD drive etc... because they make the box, they give you less choices. and whats with the ONE BUTTON!!!!!! god, i have a wireless optical mouse with a scroll thing 3 buttons on the top, 2 buttons on the left and one on the right that goes with my wireless keyboard which has like 150 buttons on it, so why does apple have to stay so basic grow up apple

Posted by: kip at July 20, 2005 09:45 PM

Have you even seen a Mac in the last 20 years? I've added hard drives, a USB 2 card, and a dual layer DVD burner with no problems. Wireless mice and keyboards are no problem. My 5 button mouse with scroll wheel works great on my mac.

Posted by: J. Scott at July 28, 2005 06:46 PM

Comments on this entry are closed

Previous Posts: