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Using feature management

Read time: 7 minutes
Last edited: Jun 05, 2024

This topic discusses using feature management at a high level, describes some key parts of the LaunchDarkly user interface (UI), and suggests different ways to learn more about working in LaunchDarkly.

Using feature management

Feature management is a framework for feature flag-driven development, testing, and experimentation. The basic unit of feature management is a feature flag.

To start using feature management, first create a feature flag in LaunchDarkly. A feature flag describes the different variations of a feature and the rules that allow different entities to access them. Different entities that access your features could be a percentage of your application's traffic, individuals, or people or software entities who share common characteristics like location, email domain, or type of mobile device. The entities that encounter feature flags in your product are called "contexts." To learn more, read Create flags and Contexts.

Next, you need to connect your application to LaunchDarkly. You can connect to LaunchDarkly using any of our 20+ SDKs. To learn more, read SDKs.

Then, in your application, use the SDK to make a function call any time you want to determine whether a context should receive a feature, and what variation of the feature it should receive. The SDKs use local caching to make these variation checks as efficient as possible. To learn more, read Evaluating flags.

The SDKs send analytics events to LaunchDarkly to record each context that encounters a flag and which variation it received. If you want LaunchDarkly to use certain data for flag evaluation but not store it, you can designate that data as private.

To begin, try our Quickstart guide. To learn more, skip to the Getting started in different roles section below that best describes your role.

Using the flags list and the LaunchDarkly UI

After you join an account, you have access to the flags list:

The flags list.
The flags list.

From the flags list, you can navigate to LaunchDarkly's primary features:

  • Feature flags: definitions of your feature flags and how their variations target contexts and segments that use your product
  • Contexts: people, services, machines, and other resources that encounter feature flags in your product
  • Segments: groups of contexts targeted by attribute
  • Experiments: measure the impact of features you roll out to your app or infrastructure
  • Live events: real-time insight into the events your app is sending to LaunchDarkly
  • Audit log: a running tally of changes made to feature flags
  • Integrations: third-party integrations that let you configure the product to your specific needs
  • Account settings: manage members, projects, roles, authorization, and more

Additional help is available in the top toolbar, including the quick search bar, a chatbot, and a link to your account profile.

Click on the magnifying glass icon or CMD+K (Mac) or CTRL+K (PC) to open the quick search bar. From the quick search bar you can:

The quick search bar.
The quick search bar.

Getting started in different roles

This section includes suggested paths through the LaunchDarkly documentation specific to your role.

Getting started as a software developer

Expand Getting started as a software developer

As a software developer, you're responsible for creating and implementing feature flags in code. You can use feature flags in any aspect of your application, from the customer-facing user interface (UI) to the backend.

First, you must set up a LaunchDarkly SDK to integrate LaunchDarkly with your code. To learn more, read Setting up an SDK. For information about how to choose an SDK, read Client-side, server-side, and edge SDKs. After you've set up a LaunchDarkly SDK, you can create your first feature flag.

For a guided example of these steps, try the Quickstart guide or the LaunchDarkly CLI.

After you have a basic understanding of flags, you can work with others in your organization to determine how you want to target flag variations to contexts or segments. To learn more, read Target with flags.

As you add more flags, you can start organizing your flags across different environments. To learn more, read Organize your flags. This is also a good time to start thinking about managing the lifecycle of each flag. To learn more, read Flags in your codebase. You can also explore our integrations to help you make LaunchDarkly a seamless part of your workflow. Integrations let you configure the product, receive LaunchDarkly events, or use triggers to perform actions on feature flags from third-party tools. To learn more, read Integrations.

As a software developer, you may also be responsible for other engineering work related to feature management, including automatically toggling feature flags, building custom integrations, or exporting data to destinations outside of LaunchDarkly. You can perform these and other operations using the LaunchDarkly REST API. To learn more, read the tutorial Using the LaunchDarkly REST API. For complete reference materials, read the API documentation.

For more ideas on what comes next, read Additional resources.

Getting started as a product manager

Expand Getting started as a product manager

As a product manager or release manager, you are likely responsible for coordinating deployments and feature releases.

First, learn how to turn feature flags on and off. Then, start thinking about how you'd like to target flag variations.

As a product manager, you may also build and monitor experiments to understand the impact of features you roll out. Each experiment is a set of actions used to test a hypothesis. You can use feature flags to send flag variations to portions of your user base, and compare your end users' different reactions. You can use this for A/B/n testing, acceptance testing, and stress testing. To learn more, read Experimentation.

For more ideas on what comes next, read Additional resources.

Getting started as a systems architect

Expand Getting started as a systems architect

As a systems architect, you're responsible for designing services and processes for your organization's engineering team.

Now that your engineering team is using LaunchDarkly, you can make LaunchDarkly a seamless part of your workflow. Integrations let you configure the product, receive LaunchDarkly events, or use triggers to perform actions on feature flags from third-party tools. For example, LaunchDarkly integrates with various application performance management (APM) tools, with collaboration tools like Slack, with IDE connectors, with workflow management tools, and with several other productivity and management applications. To learn more, read Integrations.

To learn about common problems integrations can help solve, read Integrations use cases. For best practices to help you succeed with LaunchDarkly on specific platforms, read our platform-specific guides.

For more ideas on what comes next, read Additional resources.

Getting started as an account administrator

Expand Getting started as an account administrator

As an account administrator, you are likely responsible for managing account members, monitoring billing and usage, and facilitating any integrations.

First, learn about how to set up and manage account members. Each member can have one of several built-in roles within LaunchDarkly, including Reader, Writer, or Admin. To learn more, read LaunchDarkly's built-in roles. If you would like to set up more precise access control, you can configure custom roles for your members. To learn more, read Custom roles.

Next, make sure you understand the options for securing your account, including how to precisely manage which account members can perform certain actions and how to enable multi-factor authentication and single sign-on in your LaunchDarkly account. To learn more, read Secure your account.

If you are in a larger organization, you may also think about grouping your account members into teams. Teams allow you to control permissions for groups of account members, rather than for individuals. Additionally, teams allow you to map permissions in LaunchDarkly to your organizational structure. For example, you can give mobile flag permissions to the mobile team and desktop flag permissions to the desktop team.

Once your account is set up and your organization has started using feature flags, you can use LaunchDarkly's data visualization tools to understand your monthly billing metrics.

For more ideas on what comes next, read Additional resources.

Additional resources

Here are some additional resources for learning how to get started with LaunchDarkly:

After you join an account, set up your SDK, and begin using feature flags, you may want to ask some questions about your organization's implementation:

  • Do we use both temporary and permanent flags in our codebase?
  • What naming conventions and styles are used for our different resources such as flags, segments, projects, and environments?
  • How do we manage flag cleanup?
  • Is there a standardized rollout strategy for new features?
  • What LaunchDarkly role am I assigned and what does that mean?

To learn more about making these determinations, read our Guides.