Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

Thoughts About Feature Parity

A set of scales

Last year, I briefly chatted with John O’Nolan, founder of the blogging platform Ghost. You’re probably wondering why the web needs another blogging platform, when WordPress powers millions of blogs and runs about 25% of all websites.

O’Nolan used to work for Automattic (the company behind WordPress). But he found that WordPress had:

too much stuff everywhere, too much clutter, too many (so many) options getting in the way of what I really want to do: publish content

Instead, O’Nolan wanted to take blogging back to basics. And Ghost was born.

During our chat, O’Nolan mentioned that he didn’t intend for Ghost to reach feature parity with WordPress. Ever. That’s not the niche the Ghost inhabits.

I wholeheartedly agree with O’Nolan. Not everyone is a power user, regardless of what many software developers seem to think. Not everyone needs their software and tools to do the same things.

But the feature parity argument persists. I generally hear it from people who are thinking of switching to something that doesn’t pack all of the features found in the tool or application they usually use. Regardless of whether they use those features or not. And it’s usually not.

I find the feature parity argument comes from two distinct directions. First, from people who use it as a crutch. A crutch that gives them an excuse not to try something new or to make a change, even if that something new or that change will simplify and streamline their digital lives.

Second, from people who whine about missing features and only do so because they can. They aren’t the application’s the target audience. Even if the tool did have the features they want (or think they need), I doubt they’d use it. I doubt the tool would be suited to their needs.

If feel you can’t adopt a tool because it lacks feature x or feature y, or because it can’t perform a certain task, ask yourself these three questions:

  • How often do I use feature x or feature y?
  • If I do use those features, will I actually miss them?
  • Is that task the tool can’t perform one that’s important to me?

From my experience as a technology coach, I’ve found that many people rarely (if ever) use the features that are supposedly deal breakers. They just need to take a little time to adapt and adjust.

Feature parity isn’t something that’s important to everyone. More features, especially if you don’t use them, aren’t always better. It’s too easy to fall into the contingency mindset when it comes to features — thinking that maybe one day you’ll need feature x, even though that day rarely comes.

Don’t buy into the hype of feature parity. Instead of thinking in terms of features, think about what you need to do. Not at some point in the distant future, but right now. Then, think of what you need to do it. Chances are, you’ll discover that you don’t need something big and powerful to get your work done. You probably just need something simple, light, and streamlined.

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