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How to stop feature creep before it stops your project

PostsDesign & UX
Georgina Guthrie

Georgina Guthrie

April 05, 2024

Most project managers want to deliver the very best to their customers. But sometimes those good intentions lead to products or projects with too many bells and whistles. Not only does this drain resources and potentially delay completion — it also results in a product or project that’s overly complex and ultimately, off-brief. 

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, or so the saying goes — and it’s definitely true of feature creep, the gradual addition of extra things that push the project beyond its original scope. Let’s take a closer look at what it is, and most importantly, how to avoid it.

What is feature creep?

Have you ever started a simple project, only to find it ballooning into something much bigger? Or maybe you’ve used an app that kept adding so many features it became confusing and less fun to use? If so, you’ve encountered ‘feature creep.’

Feature creep refers to the gradual expansion of features in a product or project. It can lead to complications, bloat, wasted resources, and a shift away from the original goals. 

It’s like deciding to make a sandwich and somehow ending up with a five-course meal. Initially, it might seem like adding more elements will make it better. But too much of a good thing can lead to a cluttered, complex, and potentially less useful outcome.

The telltale signs of feature creep in the workplace

  • In projects, feature creep happens when new features or requirements are added without proper consideration of their impact on time, resources, or overall goals. 
  • In products, it happens when superfluous additions make the product harder to use or stray from its original purpose.

While innovation and improvement are important, there’s a fine line between adding value and adding excess. Feature creep can cross that line, turning a once streamlined and focused project or product into a tangled mess of features that may not add to the user experience or project goals. 

Recognizing feature creep is the first step toward managing it. By understanding what it is and how it manifests, teams can develop strategies to prevent it, keeping projects on track and products user-friendly. 

Feature creep vs scope creep: what’s the difference?

Feature creep and scope creep both refer to how a project can grow in unexpected ways, but they’re not quite the same thing.

Feature creep happens when new features keep getting added to a product or project beyond the original plan. The main issue here is that these added features can make the product more complicated than it needs to be, possibly turning off users who liked the original, simpler idea.

Scope creep, on the other hand, is broader. It involves changes, additions, or expansions in the project’s goals or objectives, not just features. Scope creep could mean changing the project’s direction, adding new outcomes that weren’t planned at the start, or expanding the project’s goals. 

In short, feature creep is about adding more bells and whistles than planned, while scope creep is about the project’s overall direction and goals getting bigger or shifting. Both can make a project more complicated and harder to finish, but they touch on slightly different aspects of project management.

What causes feature creep?

While the intention behind adding features is usually positive, things can spiral out of control. Knowing the root cause is the best prevention — so here’s a look at some of the common culprits.

A lack of clear goals

Without a crystal-clear understanding of what a project or product is supposed to achieve, it’s easy to get sidetracked. If the scope isn’t clearly defined from the beginning, it’s easy to add new features without a strategic reason, leading to a bloated project or product that’s lost sight of the end user. 

Feedback overload

Talking of losing sight of the end-user — listening to user feedback is essential, but ironically, it can also lead to feature creep. 

Trying to accommodate every piece of feedback or every user request can lead to you adding features that complicate the product without significantly enhancing the core value. It’s important to filter and prioritize feedback based on the product’s goals and the needs of the majority of users.

Technology enthusiasm

Sometimes, the excitement about new tech or trends can lead to teams adding features simply because they’re possible or popular, not because they’re necessary. This enthusiasm, while coming from a proactive place, can distract from the project’s original purpose and make the product more complex than it needs to be. 


It’s tempting to add features in an effort to outdo competitors. This competitive spirit can lead to feature creep if said features are added in a way that doesn’t align with user needs or detract from the product’s usability.

Poor project management

Good project management involves making tough decisions about what features to include and what to leave out. Without strong project management, there’s a risk of scope expansion as stakeholders and team members propose new ideas without considering the implications for the project timeline, budget, or goals.

What are the consequences of feature creep?

Usually, project delay or cancellation are the end result, with the endeavor costing far more than intended. 

If your project does launch (or you’re adding features to an existing product), then it’s also likely you’ll have something so complicated that the people who use it start scratching their heads. Those users who came for the simplicity and ease might just walk away.

Then, there’s the time and money part. Every new feature is like adding another layer to a cake. More ingredients, more baking time, and definitely more cost. Projects can end up taking way longer than planned and can go way over budget. This is tough, especially if you’ve got a tight schedule and a not-so-flexible wallet.

The team working on the project can feel the strain too. More features mean more work, more testing, and more chances for things to go wrong. It’s like juggling too many balls at once — drop one, and the whole performance crumbles. This can make for a stressful work environment, and no-one wants that. 

How do you avoid feature creep?

Here’s how to keep this sneaky little project-ruiner at bay. 

1. Define goals and scope

Start with a solid understanding of what you want to achieve. Clearly defining the goals, target audience, and scope at the outset creates a framework against which new feature proposals can be evaluated. This clarity helps ensure any additions align with the original vision.

2. Set up a change control process

Changes are inevitable. To avoid feature creep, establish a process for evaluating and approving any changes to the project scope or product features. 

  • Assess the impact of any proposed changes on the project timeline, budget, and resources
  • Consider the necessity and value of the addition
  • Put an approval process in place so any proposed changes all go through the same rigorous checks. 

3. Prioritize features based on user needs

The customer should be at the heart of everything you do. So for that reason, focus on the features that are most important to them.

Use data from user research and feedback to understand what it is they most want. This user-centered approach ensures the finished product is useful, without being overloaded with unnecessary features.

4. Focus on good communication and collaboration

Miscommunication and siloes are like gasoline on the fire that is feature creep. Regularly review project goals and progress, and make sure everyone understands the importance of staying within the defined scope. Encourage open discussions about the value of proposed features to create a shared commitment to the project’s success.

5. Set boundaries and learn to say no

Perhaps the most challenging but essential strategy is learning to say no to features that do not align with the project’s goals or user needs. This requires strong leadership, a clear vision, and personal strength. It’s important to communicate the reasons for rejecting certain ideas respectfully and constructively, focusing on the project’s overall success.

How project management tools can help you fight feature creep

Project management tools are essential in the battle against feature creep.

Project management tools are key to stopping feature creep, making it easier for teams to keep on track, handle changes, and add new things only if they really help. These tools help in several ways:

  • Knowing what you’re aiming for: With project management tools, you can clearly write down what your project is about, what you want to achieve, and what you need, and store that vision in one central place. This makes it easier to see if a new idea fits with your project’s goals.
  • Keeping track of changes: PM tools have features for keeping an eye on any new requests for changes, making it easier to decide whether to go ahead with them. This means you can think carefully about whether new additions will really make your project better or just complicate things.
  • Deciding what’s most important: Use these tools to list all the extra features you might want to add, and then pick the most important ones. This helps avoid adding things just because they seem popular or new.
  • Working together better: Good teamwork and keeping everyone in the loop are important for avoiding feature creep. Project management tools make it easy for everyone to talk, share feedback, and make decisions together.
  • Watching your progress: Lastly, these tools help you see how your project is going and if you’re adding too much. If you’re getting off track, you can quickly fix things. 

Whether you’re managing a small team or overseeing a complex project, using project management software can be the difference between success and a web of unnecessary features. Embrace simplicity and efficiency by giving your projects the structure they need to thrive. Try Backlog for free today.



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