What “Getting Real: the Smarter, Faster, Easier Way to Build a Successful Web Application” taught me.

I just finished reading the book: “Getting Real: the Smarter, Faster, Easier Way to Build a Successful Web Application” [picture below]. The book was written by 37signals, the same company that developed “Ruby on Rails”.

Reading the book title you may think that this is a coding book, that will teach you magic ways to create websites and apps. Well, reading this book you will not find a single line of code, however, as promised, at the end you will really know the Smarter, Faster, Easier Way to Build a Successful Web Application.

How? What secret does this book holds that will teach me how to be a better programmer? A secret framework? An ancient secret for “zero bugs in the code”? Nope. This book will show how to rethink your decisions and work smarter on your projects.

If I had to pick one word to describe this book, it would be: simplicity. Your project it’s too big and complicated? Return, rethink and simplify! You don’t have the resources to handle this project? Return, rethink and simplify! Your software has too many functionalities, it is hard to use and even harder to maintain? THAT’S RIGHT! Return, rethink and simplify!

Companies are constantly working on software updates, adding more and more features to their softwares, but… this is really what we need? Think about any software that you use daily, now ask yourself, do I use 100% of that software? Which feature could I live without?

Here is a small list of the problems that a software that have too many features might have:

  • It’s hard and expensive to maintain, and every new feature will increase that price;
  • If you don’t spend enough time working on the UI and User Experience, it’ll probably be hard to use;
  • People will rarely use 100% of it;

Can you split your “hundred features software” into smaller softwares? Besides not having problems to find bugs, fix them and putting your software back up, you’ll have a loyal user community… and why is that a good thing? A loyal community is also a helping community, let them decide what you should do next.

Be careful though, you don’t need to do everything they suggest or else you’ll end with the same problem that you were trying to avoid.

Watch your forums, if someone say: — “YOU SHOULD IMPLEMENT THIS GREAT FEATURE BECAUSE WE CAN’T LEAVE WITHOUT!” — Ignore it. That’s right! Ignore it. If it’s really a great idea that people can’t leave without, it’ll probably pop into your forum again, and again, then you know: this MIGHT be a great idea, let’s discuss, and maybe implement.

This book opened my eyes in many ways… I’m the kind of person who is always worried about some image that is not centered and might ruin the whole user experience. Not that is not a good practice, but if that takes more time than it should and starts interfering with your project you might be doing something wrong and that’s why i decided to write this article.

I realized you must worry about images, pixels and font size, but at the right time, don’t let that interfere with the product, do the basic and once you have something, improve… or don’t, just throw it away because it won’t work. It’s easier to get back to the idea concept when you didn’t spent weeks working on that beautiful visual that it’s useless now. Work simple and efficienty and your projects will show the results sooner.

But hey, that’s just a few things I learned and decided to share. There is a lot more on the book. Go read it and tell me what do you think.

My name is Vitor Figueredo, I work at DreamRoad Productions, I’m studying Information Systems on Instituto Federal Catarinense — Campus Araquari.

Twitter: @vitorfgd