This question slightly stems from this Meta.SE post I posted a while back. To summarize it, the delete prompts for users deleting questions don't actually delete or allow you to delete. Someone answered and responded with this:

Sure, technically one could still try to suppress the first (and not let people know how we feel about it, and not link to those resources), but that is not worth any development efforts, I feel. Deleting an answered question should rarely happen, so only the few who persist in trying it, would see that warning a lot of times anyway.

I guess this is in a similar vein to the xkcd comic regarding workflow:

enter image description here

My question: Does it matter how many users use a certain feature for it to be implemented? Is it good practice to implement features even if a small fraction of the userbase actually uses it? Or is it just bad practice?

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Does it matter how many users use a certain feature for it to be implemented?

Off course it is, but as Stephen has said, this is much more of a product management business than UX (particularly as you talk about implementation), but UXers may be the ones deciding priorities as well.

Coding

We do quite some coding in UX. Perhaps the most obvious place is evaluation, where issues has to be ranked based on severity, frequency and effect on users.

Also, when designing something, research into frequency is important - a feature that is hardly used won't get as much spotlight on the interface as a feature that is used.

A UX deliverable (research or SWaPs) may just well include what's most urging.

UX-driven design

Is it good practice to implement features even if a small fraction of the userbase actually uses it?

I think there's a slip in how this question is phrased: How can users 'actually use' something that wasn't implemented yet? I guess you meant something like "want to use".

Then, from a UX perspective, if there's a need, there should be an implementation. So if the design of the system is UX-driven (unlike feature-driven), the need will be identified during the research/requirements phase, and should be included in the designs, which will then be implemented.

Product management

Not sure this is relevant, but from a product management perspective some features are 'easy-wins': they are quick to implement (say 2 hours of a developer time). Even if the feature only benefit, say, 3% of the users, you may just as well go with it.

But then there's the functionality-usability trade-off, where more functionality means less usability. So depending on many many variables, the decision might be not to go ahead with the feature.

  • 1
    Bravo for "if there's a need, there should be an implementation" which I view as a business decision but, per your answer, could be seen as a UX decision. In my 30 years experience I see it as a cost/benefit business choice, but I see the experience perspective in it. – Stephen P Jun 5 '14 at 1:00

How many people may or may not use a feature, and the criticality of that feature for those (possibly few) users who would use it, is a business requirements concern, not a User Experience concern.

If very few users would use a feature but it's extremely critical for those particular users to be able to efficiently do their job then it's a business decision to implement that feature.

Once that's decided, it's up to you, the UX designer, to make that feature work as well as possible.

  • If someone could explain why the downvote I might be able to improve my answer. As it stands, I sincerely believe that number of users is a business, not a UX, concern. – Stephen P Jun 5 '14 at 0:24
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    I totally agree. Why was this downvoted? It's a good and relevant answer. – Izhaki Jun 5 '14 at 0:31
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    Yes, some software features in applications (and sometimes whole applications) I develop will have only one user, but these are critical "control" functions for my company. The number of users is irrelevent in this type of situation. – Franchesca Jun 5 '14 at 7:35

It depends on how you make decisions within your particular organization. Typically companies are moving towards data-driven rather than business or ego-driven design decisions. It is certainly one criteria that can be used to weigh up the final decision, but how much it matters depends on the size of your customer base, the relevance of the feature to the rest of the application, the cost and effort involved, etc.

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