Getting Real: 37signals on Web App Development Processes

Mark Busse – One Comment


I’ve always appreciated defined methodologies and well documented processes with steps, procedures and documentation. It’s long been an accepted approach to developing design or technology solutions. And nowhere has this been more true than with web and software development. But these days, with Agile Programming and Open Source Communities combined with the mind-boggling rate of software change, is there a better way to develop web apps? Jason Fried and 37signals certainly thinks so and calls it Getting Real.

It’s not a technical Bible filled with techno-babble at all. On the contrary, Getting Real is more of a Coles Notes guide filled with common sense rules for building smarter, faster and better ways to build successful web applications. A fast read with good insights into how 37signals developed their products and advice how that can be applied to your own methodology—whether you’re a programmer, designer, project manager, entrepreneur, marketer or even just someone with a really great idea.

The book is written by the brilliant crew at 37signals, who know a thing or two about developing, launching and supporting web applications, having created the popular Basecamp project management app, Campfire group chat, Highrise CRM, Backpack info organizer, Writeboard collaborative writing tool, Ta-Da Lists, Ruby on Rails web application framework and Signal vs. Noise blog. Originally a design firm in Chicago, 37signals now maintain their own products and don’t take on any design clients—they are their own client! How great is that?

This isn’t a textbook, it’s more like a manifesto-style expression of the philosophies behind 37signals’ team and workflow. It’s written in layperson language that non-coders can understand and is filled with strong opinions. At times I found myself mildly shocked—even mildly offended—by the almost flippant tone toward process and protocols, but for the most part I was releived someone I respected was finally said these things publicly. This book is the antithesis of behemoth reads, such as Bill Moggridge’s Designing Interactions (also an excellent read for web designers), but no less important. Getting Real challenges paradigms, blew apart old preconceptions and was quite fun to read, leading me to often think about my own design firm, inspired to apply the philosophies to our web development processes.

Read it. You won’t be disappointed.

[kudos to my buddy Tyler for the heads up on this great resource]



One Response to “Getting Real: 37signals on Web App Development Processes”

  1. Matthew

    That book has been fantastic so far. It’s all I can do to not read it all in one go. One of the big things so far has been the idea of fixed money fixed time, flexible scope. It’s the exact opposite of the way I think. I have my goal, and I will accomplish it, adjusting time and money to hit my goal. The thought of scaling back the scope should be the only recourse, to do less with what I have was eye opening. Like stepping off a road you travel all the time and as you pass the bushes finding the clearest most beautiful river valley you never knew was there. It just never occurred to me to look from that side before.


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