Features, Benefits, Assumptions, and Tradeoffs

When you design a product or system for a customer, you are designing an experience for them. So it’s important to think about the relationship between the features that you choose and how they affect your customer’s experience.

Let’s take a food processor. And let’s say that the feature that the design team is discussing is “lightweight.”

  1. FEATURE: Lightweight
  2. BENEFIT (to the customer): Product is easy to move, perhaps less expensive
  3. ASSUMPTION: “Easy to move” is a benefit that my customer cares about more than other potential benefits
  4. TRADEOFF: Making it lightweight will require that the design team choose a smaller, less powerful motor

Well, I can tell you from experience, I buy a food processor to process food. And that motor had better be powerful. The tradeoff I make for a heavy machine is counter space — I leave it out so that I don’t have to deal with its weight when I want to use it.

So how do you find the right features for your customer? A good dose of humility and a lot of testing. Test your prototypes with customers and the truth will emerge. It may be in code so you’ll have to decode it. But if you watch your customers use your product, you will see the rough spots where the features that you’ve chosen don’t support the experience you hope to create. And then you can make it right.