iPod and and apple product vending machine.

Avoid the Suck Feature

Let’s dial the suck level up to 3.

When it comes to product design there is one thing you can do to cripple your product in the marketplace, destroy your brand, anger your favorite customers and even incite riots of angry ex-customers:

Add the Suck Feature.

Suck Features are very hard to define, especially prior to a product hitting the market, but you always know them when you see them. The “Suck Feature” puts a live hand gernade on top of your otherwise perfectly delicious three-dip hot fudge sundae. Here are five epic examples of  Suck Features:

The RootKit Feature by Sony.

The Idea: make it easier to fix music pirates by logging in and erasing their stolen music.
Customer Response: Pitchforks & torches, lawsuits and an enduring anti-customer image for Sony’s brand.

No On Board Email by BlackBerry.

The Idea: Get  the new PlayBook tablet to market faster by having the PlayBook only display email if the user has a Blackberry Phone. Update (6-12-2011): Money magazine says the PlayBook is so bad, that RIM won’t take it back.
Customer Response: Buy an iPad.

The Insecurity Feature by Microsoft.

The Idea: Make it easy for the bad guys to take over your computer, steal your identity, tap your bank account and take eight hours of your life cleaning up your computer.
Customer Response: Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera and Safari are quickly gaining market share at Microsoft’s expense (just three years ago, Microsoft enjoyed a 80% market share).

The Involuntary Feature Removal Feature by Sony.

The Idea: Sony seems to have a penchant for coming up with new, creative and riot inducing suck features, and even adds them to products after you buy them.  This was done last year when Sony removed the other operating system (which allowed people to use their PS3 as a computer) feature from the PlayStation 3 to supposedly (yeah, that’s the ticket) protect PS3 users from hackers.

Customer Response: Lawsuits in droves. Mad hackers: Sony’s websites have been under attack by hackers non-stop since suing George Hotz, who cracked the PS3’s digital rights management system.  PSN (the internet site that enables multiplayer games on Playstation) was offline for nearly a month.  Public disclosure of Sony’s shoddy security practices and customer information have caused immense and ongoing damage to Sony’s brand and eventually, wallet.

So, how do you avoid the suck feature? Listen carefully to your best customers, and believe them if they say something is important. Of course, the challenge is knowing exactly who your best customers really are.

So, what’s the worst suck feature you’ve ever seen?

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