Thursday, July 30, 2009

Getting Real: A Guide to Web Development

37 Signals is a web development company that produces popular online web applications such as Basecamp, Backpack, Highrise and Ta-Da List. In the past I have been a paying subscriber of Basecamp, a project collaboration tool, and Backpack, a page based collaboration tool, so I have some familiarity with their web applications.

37 Signals impress me for a number of reasons. The company is unashamably opinionated about what makes for a great web application. The conviction they hold in their beliefs shines through in all of their web-based tools, which are uniformly simple, focused and very successful. They even released a book, free on the web or paid in PDF or printed formats, to talk about what they believe is a winning recipe for developing web applications.

The book is called Getting Real and I would encourage any web entrepreneur to read it. It is a collection of very short essays, grouped into 16 chapters which traverse the entire web application life cycle, from conception to end user support.

Just as a teaser, some of the interesting essay titles and tag lines include:
  • Build Less - Underdo your competition
  • Have an Enemy - Pick a Fight
  • Embrace Constraints - Let limitations guide you to creative solutions
  • Be Yourself - Differentiate yourself from bigger companies by being personal and friendly
  • Scale Later - You don't have a scaling problem yet
  • Start with No - Make features work hard to be implemented
  • Avoid Preferences - Decide the little details so your customers don't have to
  • Meetings are Toxic - Don't have meetings
... and so on. Hopefully those titles are intriguing enough that you want to read more.

Writing an entry mentioning this book is not simply blog-filler. I want to the adhere to many of the principles they outline in the book as I continue to develop my current project, My Web Brain (click here for earlier posts). The topics they discuss will provide a productive lens through which to examine and challenge my own approaches. And I will share with you how that goes.

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