“Getting Real” by 37signals

Listening to one of the many podcasts I subscribe, I heard about an eBook called “Getting Real” by 37signals. According to them, the reason for their successful products is because the under-do the competition, and focus on what really matters. The Getting real eBook is a great document full of very interesting insights. Well worth a read if you are in the web services, software or hardware business, e.g. anything that needs an amazing user experience.

37signals is a company that is best known for their online project management service called Basecamp, which turns project management on its head according to the developers. Their main approach has been to focus on things that really matter to the majority of the users, leaving the rest outside their applications.

The “Getting Real” eBook provides an in-depth view into their approach to Web Service / Software development. Taking the less is more assumption, this book guides you through the various aspects for the development of a solution, from the starting point (including budget and resourcing issues), setting priorities, features selections and processes to get things done.

While I won’t reveal the content of this eBook, I wanted to highlight a few things. A whole chapter is focusing around the Interface Design and how this is the starting point of every development. If you cannot clearly define and drive the user interaction with the product / service you develop, potential customers will have a strong incentive to go and look for something else. Also, make sure you always work with real content and not only dummy text. Using Lorem Ipsum will not enable you to discover the real-life experience a user of the final product will have once it goes live.

The other section that I want to highlight here is the one about Promotion. Many concepts are about how to get the word about your product out. They cover the concepts of teasers and trailers for products, how to build on a blog and beta programs, upsell to more powerful versions of the products.

While focusing around the development and promotion of a web service, this eBook provides many great ideas that can be applied to software and hardware development, as well as any other product that has an interaction with users. In many ways, it makes me think of books such as Norman’s “Invisible Computer”, Cooper’s “Inmates are running the asylum” or Kim’s and Mauborgne’s “Blue Ocean Strategy“. All these have a common theme of focusing what matters to the user, minimizing everything else (especially what is costly and doesn’t provide big returns) and keeping it simple.

Noteworthy, the purchase experience applies the concepts the eBook preaches. It’s very easy to get your copy and it comes in a printable PDF format. To prevent broad distribution of the PDF, the name of the person who purchased it is written on every page of the document.

I can only recommend you get a copy of this eBook and read through it twice. A first time to see the big picture, and a second time to actually think about how each element described in this book applies to you and your business. A must read for product managers and user experience designers out there.

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