Book Review – Getting Real

by mike on June 30, 2006

Getting Real

I just finished a book called “Getting Real – The smarter, faster, easier way to build a successful web application” by the folks over at 37 signals. The book is mostly a collection of best practices that the team has built up over the years delivering products such as Ta-da List, Backpack and others. I highly recommend this book to anyone building a web application – especially those using RoR. There are some great takeaways for entrepreneurs and software developers out there. Here are the ones that I found most insightful.

  • Stay small and agile.
  • Iterate on your product and keep your cost of change low
  • If you can, fund yourself. Don’t take outside money. Be creative.
  • Keep your code simple as possible. Remember, you are going to change it many times. So, the simpler the code the easier it will be to change.
  • Build the product with core features only. Anything that is not essential – remove.
  • Meetings are toxic. Yes, it’s true! I used to work at a Fortune 500 financial services company and had meeting after meeting all day long. In fact, any work I did was before 9am and after 5pm. It was ridiculous.
  • Build the UI first. Sketch it out on paper then do the HTML. Don’t write any code. This is a tough principle to follow, but don’t waste time writing code. Build the pages and let people see them. Get feedback and repeat until you have a clear picture of where you are going.
  • Beware of the bloat monster!
  • Forget functional specs and other useless documentation. Yeahhhhh!
  • Promote your product pre-launch. Use blogs and become active in the online community early.
  • Make developers do customer support. This is a good rule to follow b/c it lets developers get feedback from the people using their software, but is tough given there are only 24 hours in the day. If you have a few developers allocate the calls between them.
  • Execution is everything. You can read all of the books in the world and know everything there is to know about starting a company, but in the end you still need to execute.
  • By and far, people are the most important ingredient in building a successful product and company. I’ve been saying this for quite sometime.
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