10 Ways to Use Feature Flags

BY MARTIN ERIKSSON ON JANUARY 25, 2017

Take back control of your products with Edith Harbaugh, CEO and Co-Founder at Launch Darkly. Edith shares her expertise with 10 things to do with Feature Flags. She explains why feature flags are beneficial to Product Managers and shows you how to use them to manage risk, keep different groups of users happy, and make your job less stressful.

The tidal wave effect

With personal storytelling from her experience as Product Director at TripIt.com, Edith reminds us of those really really bad launches. The ones where in the panic to fix the first terrifying problem, you unwittingly break something else. And then something else. And then something else. And then it’s 5am and you were supposed to be on vacation anyway. These are the days when, as Product Managers, we are overwhelmed by the pressure of input from so many directions, and being a Product Manager becomes no fun at all.

Not so fast – using feature flags pre-launch

Feature flags allow you to toggle functionality on and off for different users, giving you the means to segment your users, control how new features are released, and slow things down to a manageable pace.

Pre-launch, feature flags can help you significantly minimize risk. By offering higher risk features to certain groups of power-users or opt-in users only, you can test your new feature on the groups who know and love you best. They will be the most forgiving and the happiest to engage with you in a useful way as you work through any problems, before you release your feature to the big wide world. Not only can you use feature flags to invite favored groups to use your new functionality,you could also use them to block, shall we say, less understanding users or markets.

Making changes – feature flags in the product lifecycle

Feature flags continue to be useful post-launch as you modify your product and move through the product lifecycle. From differentiating user experience for newbie versus experienced users, to managing pay-gates, to finding kind and clean ways to kill features, feature flags allow you to manage change, minimize risk and personalize user experiences.

Edith rounds up her talk with a Q&A, giving useful examples on the topics of analytics, personalising user experiences and dealing with resistance from within your team.  

Martin Eriksson

About MARTIN ERIKSSON

Martin Eriksson has 20 years experience building world-class online products in both corporate and start-up environments for global brands such as Monster, Financial Times, Huddle, and Covestor. He is the Founder of ProductTank, the Co-Founder and Curator of Mind the Product and currently a Product Manager at large, advising and mentoring startups while writing Product Leadership, How Top Product Leaders Launch Great Products and Build Successful Teams (O'Reilly, 2017).

  • Victoria Urruela

    Could you start by explaining what are feature flags?

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