How to Kill a Beloved Feature?

Yesterday I wrote about killing unused features.  But what about killing a feature that people do use?

This is the dilemma I’m facing with the news item list, which is the middle panel in FeedDemon (the one that displays a list of articles in the current feed – it’s hidden by default in recent releases, so you may not even know it exists if you’ve only recently started using FeedDemon).  I’ve wanted to kill the news item list for a very long time because it dramatically complicates FeedDemon (both from a developer and end user perspective) and it really slows things down.

I also want to kill it because I think it was a bad idea to start with.  See, the main reason the news item list exists was to mimic Microsoft Outlook’s one-item-at-a-time reading UI.  I figured if I made FeedDemon look and work like Outlook, then more people would find it familiar, and therefore more people would find it easy to use.  Since then, though, it has become clear that RSS is not email.  Trying to read your feeds the same way you read your email – that is, treating every item as though it has to be read – leads to information overload.

Anyway, I’ve downplayed the news item list ever since v2.0, and it’s no longer documented in the online help.  I could really simplify things if I killed it, but at the same time, I’m pretty sure I’d lose customers by doing so.  Most people don’t use it – but every time I’ve hinted at its demise, I hear from people who say they couldn’t use FeedDemon without it.

So…what would you do?  Would you kill a feature that most people don’t use in order to simplify your application, or would you keep it around forever to accommodate loyal customers who rely on it?

Update: Please note that I’m not saying the news item list is being dropped – just that I’d like to drop it!

51 thoughts on “How to Kill a Beloved Feature?

  1. I’d be really upset if this feature disappeared. I am subscribed to about a 100 feeds, and have close to about 1000 new items every day to process. I can scan through these and find the ones that I actually want to read in about 20 minutes first thing in the morning. I don’t think I could do this without the News Items View.
    Contrary to your argument that the News Items View makes Feeddemon like e-mail and gives you the impression that you have to read everything, it actually allows me to do the opposite. Very rapidly, often with one glance I can scan all the titles for a given feed and decide that I don’t want to read any of them and then hit Mark Feed read. If there is something that looks interesting then I can quickly select the news item then go the browser page, hit Ctrl-A to select everything and paste it into Word. When I have gone through the 1000 feeds, I generally have about 10,000 words of content to read, which I do by printing out my Word document that I have generated. I generally do the reading on the train home or in bed that evening, or on my commute in to work.

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