Front Toward Enemy - When a "Killer Feature" Becomes Friendly Fire.

Photo by Yaoqi LAI on Unsplash

Can your product’s “killer feature” — that amazing bit of utility that sets it apart from the competition — actually drive customers away from your product? Consider one example.

My Trello love story

For a couple of years, I used Trello for personal organization. It’s a great app, one of the best, and I say that as someone who has tried a lot of these types of apps.

With over two years daily use under my belt, Trello was my longest relationship with any to-do app. There’s so much to love. It’s clean. It’s flexible, with numerous extensions in the form of “power ups” that tack on calendars, recurring tasks, integration with other platforms, and more. Need something super custom? Yep, there’s an API for that.

The daily grind

Several times a day, the GTD-inspired workflow I’d adapted for use with Trello required me to move several cards between boards. Moving a card from one board to another involved several clicks, but wasn’t a terribly onerous task. Compared to Trello’s many positives — the mobile app that made it quick and easy to add new ideas and tasks to my Inbox, the integrations with Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant for capturing tasks on the run… — no, those few extra clicks were but a minor fault.

Boom! They drop the “killer feature”

One day upon opening Trello I’m greeted my a new feature, indeed — the “killer” feature — : Butler! “Hullo…? And you are?” That’s when things got awesome.

Hullo…? And you are?

Butler is essentially Trello plus a sprinkling of AI plus macros. It analyses your usage patterns and makes suggestions as to where you can save a few clicks here and there. Remember those tedious multiclick card movement tasks? A Butler button turned this into a one-click affair. I also added a daily Butler operation to sort the tasks on a board by their due date. I was sold! I was happy. I felt more productive.

Then I hit the quotas.

Quotas killed the productivity star

Just a few short weeks into my whirlwind relationship with Butler, the honeymoon was abruptly over.

I ran into Butler’s tight-fisted quotas . With my Gold subscription, I was limited to 200 command runs per month. Dismayed, incredulous, but not yet dissuaded, I disabled my auto sorting command, which gave me a little more headroom, but here was the problem: A personal assistant is all about clearing headspace to make room for the more important stuff. Now every time I clicked my nifty “time saving” button, I thought about that miserly quota. Reverting back to the “old fashioned way” felt so tedious. I’d been spoiled. Quite thoroughly spoiled in fact, much as though I’d had a real life Butler for a few weeks.

Annoyed by what felt like overly restrictive limits, I still liked the Butler-Trello duo so much (Tretler? Butlo?) that I looked into upgrading to business class in hopes of upping the oppressive quota limits… Nope. I was aghast; even the more expensive business tier was capped at 200 command runs per user/month. What in the world…? Who does that!?

Lessons learned

Butler really is one of Trello’s “killer features.” Only in this case, with this bloke, it wasn’t the competition that wound up dead. My Trello Gold subscription was up for renewal in 2020, but I just couldn’t get past miserly old Butler. Trello stayed behind in 2019, fallen slain by Butler’s friendly fire. RIP, mate… We had a good run. :'(

         _____/      \\_____
        |  _     ___   _   ||
        | | \     |   | \  ||
        | |  |    |   |  | ||
        | |_/     |   |_/  ||
        | | \     |   |    ||
        | |  \    |   |    ||
        | |   \. _|_. | .  ||
        |                  ||
        |  Trello '17-'19  ||
        |                  ||
*    *  | *   **    * **   |**      **

So here’s the takeaway: If you’re serving up the proverbial ‘Two Buck Chuck’ and your customers are okay with it, tread oh so cautiously when you rollout ‘Chateau Sophistiqué’ — those fine oak barrels could blow up in your face.

Ty Walls
Digital Construction Worker

Ty Walls is a software engineer in love with creating, learning, and teaching.