It’s 2023, your product roadmap is all set to delight your users, and you have released your new feature to hit the sweet spot, but oops, a bug sneaked in, and now your users have a poor app experience. By the time you connect with the engineering team to roll back the codes, fix the issue, and release the update, your users are already switched to and perhaps even got attached to your competition’s offerings.
Your users have many options to choose from, but in cases like this, you’ve only got one, which is to adopt a modern feature management tool that provides more agility, flexibility, and feature control to various teams.
This is where a modern feature management tool called feature flags changes the game. Feature flag implementation eliminates team dependency, provides control of feature functionality to the product team, and keeps you aligned with your product roadmap timeline.
On top of that, a feature flag opens the door to adopting modern feature development techniques and allows you to choose those which suit your business.
After all, it’s 2023, and the days of the waterfall model are gone. It is the era of experimentation that is quick, targeted, and personalized to produce a one-of-a-kind product experience for each user.
Let’s understand this tool called feature flags, how it makes feature management easy, and what you can do with these feature flags to make your feature management modern and agile.
What are feature flags?
Feature flags, often known as feature switches, feature flippers, and feature toggles, are used to turn a particular feature’s functionality off or on in the live app. They are made of if/else code snippets with desired code paths which enable the product team or anyone in the team who does not have an engineering background to control the feature functionality without having any coding skills.
Features can be released and rolled back even for specific segments without any engineering efforts. A single click on the feature toggle from the dashboard immediately does all the magic you need.
Let’s understand how it makes feature management and development easy for all.
How do feature flags work for engineering and non-engineering teams?
Feature flags eliminate the dependency on development teams. That means all the teams have more control, more time, and more flexibility in their area of work.
Using feature flags, developers ship new features and updates to the live app in an inactive state. There are two advantages to doing this in an active stage
1. The app experience for the users remains unaffected.
2. Development teams can free themselves from the new feature release process.
When the development team is no more part of the feature release process, they can invest that time and energy to continuously work on multiple features and their variants.
Once the new features are deployed in the live App in an inactive state, the product team can use the feature toggles to activate and release the features to the targeted users whenever they want. Apart from feature release and rollback, your product team can perform feature testing on no-code devices and with specific user segments to ensure it works as expected.
How do feature flags make feature management easy?
According to AppsFlyer’s App uninstall report – 2023, every 1 in 2 Apps are getting uninstalled within 30 days of being downloaded, and the uninstall rate gets even worse for developing countries. Some of the reasons are:
- Poor App experience
- Failing to evaluate user feedback
- Failing to deliver on time
- Plenty of Apps to choose from
One of the best ways to increase retention is by offering a personalized App experience through experimentation. This is where feature flags help you to perform segment-specific tests.
Below are some of the best feature flags use cases to offer the best user App experience.
As discussed above, feature flags let you control the feature functionality with feature toggles, which means no more developer dependency. Be it for feature testing, releasing, or rolling back, a non-engineer without coding knowledge can control all of that with a simple click on a feature toggle.
Feature flags allow product teams to prioritize which new features to test or to release first. This means your non-engineering team can work more efficiently and stay aligned with the product roadmap.
Targeted and personalized
User preferences and tastes change with location changes. When we cross the country’s borders, we may have to change feature availability. Your premium customer wants a premium feel and services, or say you want to release a feature for beta users. You want to make your platform compatible with as many devices as possible, be it software or hardware, and each of them comes with its own design language. The job is to meet each user’s requirements. The feature flag enables your product team to test, control and meet all those requirements.
On top of that, feature flags eliminate the need for a new app version. Once your developers deploy features to the live app, these features can be released immediately or scheduled for later.
Testing in production
Unlike the waterfall model, feature flags-driven development lets you test features live, in production, and delete improve quality with real user feedback.
As your developer team is no more a part of the feature release process, it can utilize that time and energy to work on the development of multiple features. They can even ship MVP features to production by keeping feature toggles in off condition so the product team can test them at their will with actual users.
To check the app’s robustness, your product team can test new features with no-code devices. This helps to test new features, variants of features for different OS, and OS versions on various devices. Even if the new feature is half-coded, you can still perform quick testing to ensure the development is going in the right direction.
No-code A/B Testing
Feature flags enable the product team to perform A/B testing. The engineering team can test feature flags for two variants of a feature within the live app without code changes. With feature flags, A/B testing can be done with subsets of your actual users or based on location or any segment type you want. It will help to understand which new feature variant is giving a better user experience for your target audience.
Your alternative to Blue-Green Deployment
Blue-Green deployment is a software development technique containing two identical production environments to safely and efficiently deploy new features. New lines of code are sent to the controlled production environment for testing. Once things seem smooth, the code is transitioned to another environment containing the entire user base. Working with two environments demands time, people, and money.
Feature flags eliminate the need for a separate environment. You can now control feature functionality for a specific audience right there in the production environment.
Note: With feature toggles, you manage the feature functionality immediately. You can immediately roll back a feature if and when things go south.
There are chances that the feature you release contains a bug. You don’t want all of your users to experience that buggy feature. This is where Canary deployment comes in handy. With the help of feature flags, your product team can release features for a small percentage of real users for validation. Feedback from real users helps you find the issues you might have missed. Once you fix the issues and gain confidence, you can use the feature toggles to release the feature safely and efficiently to a significantly higher percentage of users.
Trunk-based development is a version control management practice where small updates are frequently merged to the main branch or trunk. As the code size and complexity increase, the team size also grows. Trunk-based development allows various development teams to code parallelly to find and fix the issues during feature development. It helps to streamline the integration process, which makes your CI/CD more efficient. Feature flags enable your development team to turn off the code path temporarily and allow you to make new changes to the code path, which can be activated later by turning on the feature toggle.
How to implement feature flags?
You can own an in-house flagging system. It is suitable for simple use cases. Here, you have to prepare if/else statements with a database to control the flags.
Implementing feature flags gets complex with advanced targeting and experimentation. In cases like this, it is recommended to leverage powerful MarTech platforms like ours. Simply put, you’ll be having the best of both worlds without investing more in engineering.
- Feature flag dashboard to view and manage all the flags
- Flowchart-based feature flag builder
- Feature release with a single click on the feature toggle
- Kill switch to immediately roll back the feature
- Segment-specific feature rollouts
- Percentage-wise gradual rollouts
- A/B testing
- Feature testing with no-code test devices
- Feature testing in production with actual users
- Real-time conversion metrics report to measure the impact and fix bugs
- Integration with your choice of Analytical platform
In a Nutshell
In contrast to the traditional waterfall model, feature flags direct businesses towards a more flexible, controlled, and efficient feature development and management approach. Product teams gain more control over feature functionality and testing. Consequently, they stay more aligned with the product roadmap timeline. They can release, rollback, and perform various tests over different segments based on different geo-locations, to deliver the best app experience.
On the other hand, DevOps doesn’t have to work on long-running feature branches which are difficult to manage and merge. With feature flags, they can simultaneously work on multiple features and adopt powerful modern feature development techniques according to their feature development style.
Reach out to us to learn more about feature flags at Netcore Cloud’s Product Experience platform. Advance your feature management. Deliver contextual user app experience, with the power of no-code Nudges, A/B testing, and more from a single platform.