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Feature flagging tools can enable you to achieve the following:

  • Manage the complete lifecycle of any feature

  • Customize content for specific user segments

  • Ensure applications are always in a releasable state

  • Avoid unnecessary disruption and rollbacks

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Feature flagging tools are essential to ensuring development teams can release features with speed and precision. While there are many different types of feature flag tools, the core principles remain the same.

In this short guide, we are going to break down everything you need to know about leveraging feature flagging tools and how to effectively implement these into rollouts.

ConfigCat is a cross-platform feature flag service for software teams. With a range of powerful integrations using applications you already know and love, ConfigCat gives you the tools and resources needed to fully harness the potential of feature flags. Teams are actively using ConfigCat for quick and safe deployments. We’ll cover ConfigCat in more detail later on.

What are feature flag tools?

Feature flags are a software development tool designed to help you manage functionality remotely without deploying any code. You can rapidly change what your users can see and deliver varying configurations at the click of a button. With remote switches at your fingertips, you can manage the complete lifecycle of any feature and control access to these features.

Depending on the nature of the features you are deploying, feature flags can range from basic IF statements to more detailed decision trees. Ultimately, feature flags serve different purposes, and how they are structured reflects this. Feature flags are sometimes referred to as feature flippers, feature switches, feature toggles, feature controls, and even conditional features.

No matter how you choose to refer to feature flags, they are designed to control how your code executes. Let’s take the example of a new feature released for testing inside an organization. The in-house developers can leverage a feature flag to control who has access to this new feature. They can do this by selecting which employees with company emails can see it.

How do feature flags tools work?

When you want to separate code deployment from feature releases, the feature code is wrapped inside a feature flag. This means the feature can still exist in the main code but stay dormant. Just like a switch, a team member can seamlessly turn on features by enabling the code wrapped inside a feature flag. This is achieved using a feature management platform.

Teams can use feature toggles to ensure certain features are only visible to the right users. For instance, if your team is testing a new feature, the developers can use feature toggles to make sure it is only available to the right team members. You can come up with specific criteria to enable or disable specific features for certain users. Feature toggles enable plenty of flexibility.

Feature Flagging Tools Best Practices

To unlock the full potential of feature flagging tools, you'll need to follow a few best practices.

Assess Each Feature Flag Individually

Upon creating feature flags, you need to dedicate time to customizing these for the users. If you are setting up feature flags, they must have some underlying purpose. In other words, you must ensure it makes logical sense for each user to get a certain feature flag. If they do not need to have access to a specific feature, it doesn’t seem logical to set up a feature flag for them.

Many developers use feature flags to support the customization of content for specific users. Using a solution like ConfigCat, you can target specific user groups with your rollouts and make sure only the right users get access to features. For instance, if you have users on a premium subscription tier, you can leverage feature flags to support the premium user experience.

As a sophisticated cross-platform feature flagging tool, ConfigCat can help you to provide users with consistent experiences regardless of the devices they use. No matter whether they are web or mobile users, a single flag can control the visibility of features across multiple devices. Development teams can quickly share features across web and mobile devices.

Leverage Flag Management Platforms For Consistency

While the process of feature flagging is relatively simple with the right tools in your corner, a few complexities can arise at an enterprise level. From complying with regulatory requirements to managing the lifecycle of your feature flags, there are many aspects for you to consider. This means you will need team members to understand how feature flags work.

Fortunately, with a solution like ConfigCat at your disposal, non-technical team members can quickly get to grips with how feature flags work. With a simple and clean user interface to support the creation of feature flags, ConfigCat is ideal for flag management and enables all team members to fully embrace the possibilities of flags through beta tests and rollouts.

Review Feature Flags Like Production Code

Nobody wants to add needless IF statements to their code. When it comes to creating and using feature flags, you should consider their necessity. There is nothing worse than adding confusing and convoluted code to a product or service. With the right approval systems in place, you can ensure all configuration changes to your feature flags are carefully reviewed by developers.

You must treat feature flags like production code. You ideally need to conduct multiple reviews of any alterations to your feature flags. Adding approval flows to your team processes can help to prevent potential mistakes from occurring. Treating your feature flags like production code forces you to stay disciplined and utilize feature flagging carefully and responsibly.

Recognize When To Remove Feature Flags

Once feature flags have served a particular purpose, you should consider removing them from your code. As there are dozens of potential use cases for feature flags, each flag will have its unique timeline. While some may get used for an internal pre-launch of a product or service, other flags may get used as a precaution against coding-related issues.

What Is The Downside Of Feature Flags?

Without access to a robust feature flag management solution, feature flags can create a messy codebase. Fortunately, through the support of a platform like ConfigCat, developers can confidently leverage feature flags without making their lives difficult. In fact, when used effectively, feature flag management solutions make the lives of developers easier.

ConfigCat is a feature flag service that takes 10 minutes to learn.
Sign up for free
No trial period. No credit card.
Request a demo

Should Feature Flags Be Removed?

Generally, when a feature flag is not getting used, it’s best to remove this. For instance, if you have conducted an experiment or a rollout has been fully deployed, you should begin to look at removing any feature flags involved in this process. Once a feature flag has fulfilled its purpose, it’s best practice to safely delete the flag using a feature flag management system like ConfigCat.

Feature Flagging Tools (Best Solution For 2023)

When it comes to feature flagging tools, you should look for solutions with the following features:

  • Flexible targeting options, enabling you to roll out features to specific segments

  • A comprehensive dashboard for you to track the status of your feature flags

  • Built-in A/B testing capabilities to compare the performance of new features

To successfully manage product release cycles, you need robust feature flagging tools in your corner. ConfigCat is a go-to feature flagging solution to support the success of your rollouts. Using ConfigCat’s dashboard, you can turn your features on and off even after your code is deployed. Are you ready to get started? Take ConfigCat for a test drive today.

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