Many of our clients ask for our help with feature prioritization as part of the product development cycle. This typically involves using a choice-based research method, such as Max-Diff, our proprietary Bracket™ or Conjoint analysis. We ask consumers to choose which features are the most meaningful to them by pitting the features (or in the case of Conjoint, pitting products containing various combinations of these features) against each other.

In most cases we focus on the development aspect of product development, which generally means adding features or enhancing those that already exist.

But sometimes, it’s not a matter of adding to, but rather subtracting from, what’s already there.

Consider the case of today’s mobile phones. The phone part of my mobile phone is actually pretty low on the list of the features I use – e-mail, text, and Internet access are way more important to me than making or receiving calls. While phone capability is still a must-have, I wonder how long it will be before the “phone” part of “mobile phone” will no longer be table-stakes in smartphone design.

Many of our research methods are very good at allowing consumers to prioritize features over one another, but it’s another thing to differentiate between “nice to have” and “no longer needed”.

One way to handle this problem is through careful Conjoint design. "Not included” can be a very important aspect of a feature to test, even for the most basic, ubiquitous features. If survey participants consistently select products without a given feature, that’s a powerful finding.

In this sense, it’s important to question the presence and relevance of the product’s current features as you look to research the new and enhanced feature array.