The scourge of feature creep and the dichotomy of progress.

The scourge of feature creep and the dichotomy of progress.

If you pay your mortgage or feed your kids from the proceeds of selling stuff to people, you need to make sure your business model is sustainable. You need to be able to sell the same stuff to different people or sell different stuff to the same people or if you're a marketing genius, sell the same stuff to the same people.

If you're managing a brand, this can put you in a tricky situation, you've spent a lot of money and time developing a product that you can declare is 'best in class', the market buys that product in droves and your kids have something other than Pot Noodles to eat. Result. But then what? Didn't you just tell everyone this was the best possible product? How can you keep that revenue stream coming in as your addressable market slowly declines?

You've got a couple of ideas that might make the product even better, maybe a couple of features that you considered, but dropped, for V1 could make it into V2. It's tempting at this stage to start addressing some of the issues that were brought to your attention when V1 was selling like hot-cakes. That woman in Weybridge who would definitely buy one if there was a green colour option. The bloke in Bathgate that really wanted velcro rather a zipper. It's tempting to try and hoover up those sales from the outliers. So now V2 has 18 groundbreaking features rather than the 12 that V1 had.

When I worked in bicycle retail we talked often about hangtag strategy. When a customer is in your shop looking around, they're constantly looking at the hangtags telling them about all the great features that product has. So it becomes a competition between competing brands to cram as many of these features as they can onto the hangtag. At this point, we're getting further and further away from the original essence that made your product the best, the functionality and elegance is starting to be forgotten and usurped by bullet points on a tag/website/box.

The fascinating thing that happens during this process is that if enough brands jump on the necessity of some new feature that the customer didn't even know existed and certainly didn't think they needed, it starts to become the norm and for the brands that are ahead of the curve, this feature becomes a PUSP (pseudo-unique selling point). It's this constant churn of ideas/functions/features that keeps the industry afloat. If it sounds like I'm being cynical here I'm not really. I've paid my bills over the years from working within this exact system. It's not all bad.

Why is all this relevant to Wildcat? Well, we have a few 'rules' that we need to work within at Wildcat. Our products need to be durable, they need to be functional and they need to be lightweight. Adding features to a bikepacking bag is really hard to do without being in conflict with at least one of those principals and often contradicts two or three. In my eyes, good design isn't an additive process, the best design should be reductive, it's about taking away while at the same time preserving the functionality, the quality and the story. In software development there is a process called refactoring, this is where the programmer(s) take a bunch of code and rewrite it over and over, removing redundancy, simplifying and reducing points of failure while at the same time preserving the functionality. This is what we do at Wildcat, constantly reviewing the product and how it's used. Where are the potential points of failure? How can we mitigate the weak points?

We're in the process of relaunching Wildcat, we've been tweaking products and designs over the past nine months or so and we've been in no rush to bring anything to market until we're happy. We'll gradually be adding products to our webstore as they come into stock and for some products we'll open up pre-order if we think that makes sense. However, if you're expecting to see our hangtags double in size with even more essential features added to the bullet lists, you might be a little disappointed.

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