I've worked on some big product launches. Every time there's a major update, developers have to think about which features to port over and which to drop.
Sometimes it is easy. Analytics show no one is using this feature? Drop it.
Sometimes it is hard. It's a moderately well used feature, but complicated to get running on a new environment. If you keep it - that's a huge extra cost, for marginal utility. If you drop it - die-hard users will complain.
So we come to Philips Hue. I've long been a fan of these smart lights. They've just released a completely redesigned version of their app. And, over on LinkedIn, the designers and product managers are congratulating each other on a job well done.
But reading the reviews and looking at the social media chatter shows a different story.
One of the app's best features was their Android Widgets. I had a row on my homescreen with buttons for each room.
Tap the bedroom - lights go on. Tap it again - lights go off. Perfect!
The new version deleted all the widgets, with no way to recreate them? Why? Because the iPhone app can't have widgets, so no one gets them. I wish I was joking.
Hi Jon, thanks for reaching out about this. We've decided to discontinue the separate Hue widget to focus on bringing more functionality to Siri Shortcuts as it offers more extensive functionality. Same goes for Android. 🙂
— Philips Hue (@tweethue) June 3, 2021
Perhaps this is a tiny kerfuffle? Sure, there are lots of users complaining on Twitter - but perhaps they're a vocal minority?
A check on the app's Google Play store rankings tells a similar story. The app used to have an impressive 4.5★ rating. Now it's barely hovering above 3★.
That's a significant drop considering how many people have installed it. The reviews on iOS are also suffering (although it's not possible for me to sort by date on them.)
I can sort by most recent using my iPhone, they have the same level of praise as Android! pic.twitter.com/Ko0n1wSsFQ— Tom Singer (@tomsinger) June 9, 2021
I get it. I truly do. Philips couldn't afford the expense of maintaining an Android and iPhone version of their app, so they rewrote the whole thing in Flutter. That way they only have a single code base to worry about. I daresay that iOS is their biggest user-base, so anything which is too hard for Apple to support gets dropped. From a purely business perspective, I guess it makes sense.
But this is an app used by people who have made a considerable investment buying into the ecosystem. The bulbs are not cheap, and they're installed in people's personal homes - so when the app screws them over, it feels like a slap in the face.
Removing features is an insult to your users. It is an insult to people who have paid good money to you, and who have spend significant time learning how to use your product. When you remove functionality, you're telling your customers that they've wasted their time and you simply don't care.
Programming computers is hard. Keeping people happy is hard. Upgrading systems and retaining compatibility is hard. Removing functionality makes life easy for you - but, guess what? Your job is to work hard to make things easy for your customers.