November 13, 2014 by Roman Ožana

5 Key Highlights from Getting Real by 37signals

We recently had the pleasure of reading Getting Real by 37signals, which outlines effective and efficient practices for building web applications.

You might recognize 37signals (renamed Basecamp this year) as the company behind Basecamp. They’re also the creators of Ruby on Rails, authors, and avid bloggers.

getting real

Getting Real is a quick read that offers practical insight about application development from concept, design, implementation to promotion, post-launch, and optimization. Although it’s mainly for people working with web applications, it’s packed with helpful advice for just about anyone looking for ways to improve their workflows.

With that in mind, we wanted to share the 5 key highlights that stuck with us after reading the book.

1) When there’s too many people involved, nothing gets done.

Working in a smaller team has many advantages, including an easier flow of communication between team members and faster results. We know this advice is true from practice! Wikidi is a small company broken down into smaller teams, including Team Testomato.

It’s easier for us to stay organized and make sure that everyone is on the same page because our team is small. We don’t have a lot of formalized rules or channels that need to be used when we have a question or a problem that needs to be solved.

2) The ability to change is key. 

As a team, we’re always working on being more efficient and keeping our costs lower. One thing we like to focus on is making sure it’s easy for us to change. Staying flexible not only makes change cheap, it also means it’s fast!

We really loved this point:

“Take whatever you think your product should be and cut it in half. Pare features down until you’re left with only the most essential ones.”

It’s important to ensure our team can adapt to changing requirements quickly. Working as a small team and keeping our features simple gives us an agility that wouldn’t be possible with a larger, more complex project.

Getting Real advocates the idea that “less is more”, and we couldn’t agree more. Fewer features means less code and less complexity, which means you can achieve faster, higher quality work.

3) The alone zone is where real progress is made.

37signals is well-known for its support of remote working and working alone.

Here’s why:

“When you have a long stretch when you aren’t bothered, you can get in the zone. The zone is when you are most productive.”

As a team that splits its time between the office and working remotely, we understand the value of alone time and what you can get done when you don’t have the distraction of other people around you.

Even when we’re in the office, we try to respect each other’s space and try not to disturb anyone who’s in “the zone”.

4) Good site defense can make or break the customer experience.

We’re big believers in looking for problem areas to improve customer experience and trying to help people out, regardless of whether someone is a customer or not.

It’s important to use “defensive design” to make sure that you’re prepared for every situation:

“Your app may work great 90% of the time. But if you abandon customers in their time of need, they’re unlikely to forget it.” 

We treat trouble spots that are frustrating to users as an opportunity. Being aware of problems with our product helps us develop new features, figure out what we need, and weed out the ideas that aren’t worth pursuing.

5) All software has bugs — it’s just a fact of life.

As a website testing tool, we know things break. Errors happen to everyone, including Testomato. Teams need to learn how to prioritize bugs based on how severe a problem is and who they affect, and be honest with users about what’s being done to resolve existing issues.

This advice really stood out to us because we try to be open and transparent with our community! Honesty is always the best policy, and it makes your job easier.

This list could have been a lot longer! The book is full of practical, helpful content that anyone building any product will find useful. We encourage you to go check out the whole thing for yourself, just follow this link.

Image Credit: Cheon Fong Liew

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