Experience and the War on Features

So many businesses believe in: The list. The feature set. The sell sheet. They think features will make their business successful. They think lists are the holy grail to selling a product. And they would be wrong.

A key component to building a smart, scalable SaaS product, is fighting the urge to base your business on a list of features. In the end, solving a problem with a great experience is going to be the biggest factor in getting and keeping your customers.

The Theory

It’s easy to fall into the feature trap. I get it. Features and lists are concrete. They are easy to explain and easy to visualize. You can clearly show an ROI to your customers and sell them on the product without requiring any work from them up front.

And this works. For many companies. But it only goes so far. A list of features may get a sale, and might even get the few people in charge to use the product. However, a product based solely on features will always struggle with retention, expansion and keeping customers happy.

A list of features is really nice up front, but as day-to-day use of a product continues, that list will quickly fade from memory. These customers, once convinced by the list of features, will realize that they only needed two things.

Solving a Problem (or problems)

The first thing every SaaS product must do is solve a problem (or a group of related problems). This is non-negotiable. Don’t focus on a list. Don’t copy another company. Don’t listen to customers’ solutions. Listen to your target customers’ problems. Only once you full understand the problem, can you build (and sell) an excellent solution.

The solution to a problem is at the core of every SaaS product. The list of half-baked features may look good on paper, but the way a problem is solved is much more important than anything else. Users will come to you asking if your product supports X or Y. If you step back and understand why they are asking for those features, you can get to the heart of their issue. Your product might already solve their problem, and they didn’t know it.

Which means you might need to better explain your product (but that’s another post). The value should be evident from the moment they signup. As they use the product to try and solve their problem, it should guide them and provide them the best experience possible.


In order for users to perceive value and realize the full potential of the product, the experience and the way they use it are critical. Without an intuitive UI and UX, a user will quickly forget that full list of features, or worse, they won’t know how to find them.

Having a great experience also reduces the amount of overhead and effort that the company has to invest into each new customer. Or, instead of investing time and money into showing customers how your product works, you could delight and impress them with other things. At When I Work we send handwritten thank you cards to all of our customers.

And … the Results

Your mileage may vary based on the suggestions above. However, the overarching theme of ensuring an excellent user experience, will always give you better results. Many businesses may be able to have both. The list of features, extremely well executed in a smooth and intuitive product.

But at the end of the day, if you have to pick features vs. experience, your best bet in the long term will always be experience!

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