Building anti-bloat muscle
One of the best ways to fight getting soft around the middle is to get to the gym—or do other activities like outdoor sports—on a regular basis. By slowly burning away the squidgy bits, you build habits and muscle that will help you stay in shape in the future.
It’s the same with building software. Unless you make a habit of regularly and proactively taking action to fight bloat, one day in the not-too-distant future you’re going to wake up and wonder how your app got to be so god damn pudgy around the middle. You know the kind of products I mean. Nobody sets out to build things that end up that way. Even with the best of intentions, your app will suffer the same fate unless you actively work towards a more focused trajectory.
The most obvious time to do this is when considering new features. It doesn’t matter how exciting, feasible, or popular an idea is. You still don’t have to do it. Choosing to pass on a good idea is perfectly acceptable, yet it’s an option people frequently overlook. You are in control of what goes into your product, so don’t just add things because you can.
It’s not just new features this applies to though. Any time you’re touching an existing feature, take the opportunity to reevaluate whether it still needs to be there. Why are you changing it? How many other times have you had to tweak something there recently? Is maintaining this aspect of your product really worthwhile, or would you and your team’s time and mental energy be better spent elsewhere? Would it feel great to never have to worry about this thing again?
Don’t just wait till you’re focused on changing something either. Try to actively seek out things that might be candidates for the chopping block. It doesn’t matter if you don’t go through with most of them—what’s useful about being in the habit of regularly proposing that things be removed is that you build up muscle for fighting bloat.
How to tell if you’re doing it right
To start with, this will feel really odd. You’ll know you’re doing it right when it feels noticeably uncomfortable to be carrying on without something that previously seemed important. If things grind to a halt, then perhaps what you just said no to really was necessary, and should be reconsidered, but if you never get to the point where leaving something out is actually hindering your progress, then you’re not being ruthless enough.
What are you waiting for? Go put something on the chopping block.