Getting Real is the self-published e-book by the guys at 37signals. I read their previous book Defensive Design for the Web and currently use their online organizer Backpack everyday. Since my experience with 37signals has been very positive, I gave their latest publication a spin.
What is Getting Real?
Getting Real is a collection of short essays on how to be more effective in building a web application. This book leans heavily on 37signal’s own experience in creating their successful suite of products. It also includes real world examples of success using these ideas. Many of the principles described will sound familiar to you if you’ve followed the authors’ blog Signal vs. Noise.
Get to Work
Getting Real is about skipping all the stuff that represents real (charts, graphs, boxes, arrows, schematics, wireframes, etc.) and actually building the real thing.
I hate nothing more than unneeded paperwork that is characteristic of bureaucracy. With an interactive web application, it is nearly impossible to communicate the user experience with any thing short of a working prototype. Besides, once you start building you’ll quickly discover issues that you never could have identified on paper.
Keep it Simple
Getting real is less. Less mass, less software, less features, less paperwork, less of everything that’s not essential (and most of what you think is essential actually isn’t).
The less overhead you have, the easier it is to adapt to changes and fix problems. Planning for hypothetical situations can easily overwhelm your project. Stay focused on the basics and cross the “hypothetical” bridges when they come.
Getting Real is staying small and being agile.
By nature, the larger the ship, the harder it is to turn. Small teams, unbound by red tape, can easily outmaneuver the bloated org charts of larger companies.
User Experience First
Getting Real starts with the interface, the real screens that people are going to use. It begins with what the customer actually experiences and builds backwards from there. This lets you get the interface right before you get the software wrong.
Using the interface as your guide, you can tailor your underlying code to the problem instead of conforming your interface to the code’s assumptions and restrictions.
Rinse and Repeat
Getting Real is about iterations and lowering the cost of change. Getting Real is all about launching, tweaking, and constantly improving which makes it a perfect approach for web-based software.
The beauty of web applications is that you don’t have to wait for the next year to release another software CD. You can roll out some changes during lunch if you like. Get something working and out for the public and then make continuous improvements.
Getting Real delivers just what customers need and eliminates anything they don’t.
Have you ever used all the hundreds of features tucked away in Microsoft Word? Probably not. Think about what the bare minimum your customers need to succeed and then implement that solution.
I love the simplicity of the ideas and examples presented in Getting Real. Although the content is focused specifically on building web applications, the principles can easily be applied to other business and marketing situations.
I recommend you pick up a copy of Getting Real and see what you can apply to your project today. I had several “light bulb” moments while I was reading that were worth more than the purchase price.