Almost daily I face this this challenge. In fact it is infuriating about how many times in the day a usability concern is locked into the backseat. New features almost always seem to win versus making a new product better simply by improving the usability of an application.
Think of it like Jenga. In the game Jenga you must pull out the bottom blocks and place them on top. Every time you place a new block on top the structure becomes shakier and is unable to support the weight until it eventually all crumbles to the ground.
Imagine an application that is under this same pressure. You start out developing and have an ok UI that “seems” to support the weight of the tool and then you release the product to the consumers. They begin to complain of slow load times, confusing UI interactions. Back in the design room discussions are held about how to improve the usability. And the #1 thing brought up is add new features. No, No, No!
Take another look! You may not need to start from ground zero but, the foundation on which the application has been built is weak and trembling already and about to collapse. The last thing you should do is throw more weight on top of the impending disaster.
This is exactly what seems to have happened in more places then you can imagine. You eventually reach a point where the application looses it’s ability to scale to the increasing features. Sometimes you have to just close your eyes walk away and wait for the impending I told you so.
At this point you should be utilizing real user feedback, comments, and in house usability testing first hand to see what problems are plaguing the user. Sure some features that may be missing may be the culprit, but more often then not the tasks we perceived to be simple are way too complex and the base functionality of the application MUST be revisited to support future growth.
Kathy Sierra talks a lot about this in her blog.
I still have yet to find ways to counteract this line of thinking, but it’s just human nature – more is a perceived better. Any more ideas on how to combat this line of thinking?