I've written frequently about how much I love 37signals - the company, products, and the vision behind what they do. Over the past month, I've had the chance to dive deeper into these tools, including the latest addition, Highrise, as well as their guiding philosophy, Getting Real. It's an interesting mix, because on the one hand, I've used their products to manage projects, organize my life, and write a book, but I've also learned from their methods and used them to guide many design and development decisions.
As I was going through my notes from the Getting Real book, I realized I had a large collection of observations that might be more interesting in one post rather than spread insidiously throughout numerous entries. So here they are, the 37 reasons I love 37signals. If you'd like a good overview, checkout the recent Time magazine article: Small Is Essential.
1. Over 1 million customers - 8 employees
2. The Job/Gig Board - perfectly executed
3. Getting Real - first writing a very helpful book, then self-publishing it, sharing the results of the experiment publicly, and making it available online
5. Ruby on Rails - they built an amazing development platform, then made it available to everyone for free
6. Signal vs. Noise - one of the best software blogs because it is truly helpful and diverse, not just promotional
7. The Customer Summit - a one-day conference in Chicago for customers to share and learn how to get the most out of the tools
8. A newsletter that is entirely plain text, informative, and respects your time
9. Product blog - tips, news, and customer profiles for all the products in one place
10. A belief in the beauty of less - features, options, employees, meetings, promises
11. They built a blogging tool for Signal vs. Noise, but decided not to turn it into a product
12. In a different situation, they chose TypePad for the product blog, when a customized solution was more trouble than it was worth
13. Principle: Don't focus on details too early in the process
14. Instead of being tied to what URL is available, the products have real names, making conversations about them a joy (Backpack, Basecamp, Campfire, Highrise) and accessible to everyone from corporate VP's to parents and teenagers
15. Principle: No beta software
16. The apps are for everyday people who want to get things done, not just early adopters or geeks
17. The software meets real needs because it met their needs first
18. Principle: Don't waste time on problems you don't have yet
19. Customer stories like this one
20. Principle: Copywriting is interface design
21. Fantastic customer support - when I've needed help, I've received it right away
22. Principle: Don't try to be all things to all people.
23. A commitment to grow slow and stay independent
24. Principle: Avoid distractions and communication addiction. Just shut up and get to work.
25. An ongoing effort to share knowledge, ideas, and mistakes for the benefit of everyone, including competitors
26. Product pages show you what you can do with the software, instead of a feature comparison chart
28. They acknowledge that there are emotional and non-tangible aspects to software, a feeling you get while using it
29. Principle: You don't have to fix every bug instantly - there will always be flaws, the key is to put them in perspective and prioritize
30. They value customer service so much that the president of the company has been doing it since Basecamp first launched
31. Great presentations - I saw Jason at SXSW three years in a row and his talk was the highlight each time. The one-day workshops receive rave reviews.
32. They are committed to their software, customers, and business above all else, not the latest web trend
33. A regular blog feature is Screens Around Town, featuring UI examples from other apps and sites. Even though bad examples are everywhere and easy to mock, the posts instead focus on the great work that is being done in various corners of the web.
34. My favorite story - Basecamp was launched without a billing system. They knew it wasn't needed for 30 days, so why delay the launch? Plus, the limited time frame forced the project to be focused on the essentials.
35. From the blog and numerous interviews, it's clear they have a healthy perspective on work and life
36. Embracing a distributed team and building the tools to make it work
37. When something conflicts with the core vision, a hearty willingness to piss people off