What is a feature in software development?

“Feature” is a term frequently used in the realm of software development. In fact, feature-driven development is a subcategory of development methodology, commonly used in reference to MVP and prototype creation. 

So, what does it mean? What are features, exactly?

Let’s discuss.

What is a feature?

A feature is essentially anything that does something within a piece of software. Features are often requested by stakeholders as part of their vision for their entire project. They often make up the backbone of the software and how it is used by its target audience. 

Features are capabilities or functions. They allow users to perform actions for a desired result. For example, a feature can be something as simple as a “search” feature in a database, or something more complex such as a scheduling system in an appointments-based platform. Features can also be grouped into “feature sets” if they are small features that come together to make a category. Such as in Microsoft Word when we see the “edit” feature set, it includes features such as paste, undo, and other formatting features.

Features are often turned into user stories throughout the development process. Often one user story for something small like our search example above, and multiple user stories for something like the scheduling system. User stories will help the software development team building the project understand more thoroughly why a feature is being built and what purpose it serves for the intended user. 

All features should have direct relevance and usefulness for the people using the software. In custom software development, unique features will take up a large part of the development process, as their creation is what stands out over off-the-shelf software options, in which limited, pre-decided features are all you get. Deciding on and creating your own features for your own software is a huge benefit of custom software development. 

How are features made? 


To make a feature requested by a stakeholder, a software development company will go through a process that includes the steps…


  • Design: The feature will be planned and designed in a way that responds to the feature request. This is where we will see user stories and outlining of requirements.
  • Implementation: This is where the feature will be built, ready for deployment.
  • Feature testing: All features must be tested thoroughly to make sure that they work as expected and meet all expected requirements, they must pass acceptance tests before moving on to further stages.
  • Deployment: In this stage, the feature is ready to be deployed and used. However, there will be ongoing testing, reviewing, and upgrading to ensure the best quality of the feature now and in the future. 


This process will be repeated for however many features are needed for any particular piece of software. For something like a prototype or MVP, the focus will be on launching a product with the minimal number of features needed to make the product usable and testable for real users. In this case, a limited number of features will be designed, implemented, tested and deployed to get the product up and running quickly. Future features will come after a process of reviewing what has come so far. Such a process of feature-driven development is often favoured by small businesses and start-ups.

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