Coming soon: Getting Real, the book 11 Sep 2005

40 comments Latest by PxlDancer

We’re putting the finishing touches on our next book. We’re not sure what we’re going to call it yet, but here’s a peak at the latest version of the table of contents. The book will also include thoughts from folks like Mark Hurst of Creative Good, Seth Godin, and Jim Coudal, among others.


The Starting Line

  • Plug Your Own Hole: Build something that solves a problem you’re having
  • You Can’t Have it All: Pick two - scope, timeframe, or budget
  • Have an Enemy: Build something that’s the opposite of the competition
  • It Shouldn’t Be a Chore: Your passion - or lack of - for your product will shine through
  • Fund Yourself: Don’t take outside money by default

Stay Lean

  • Less Mass: Be a lean, agile business that can change direction quickly
  • Lower Your Cost of Change: Stay nimble so you can change on the fly
  • Tiny Rules: The advantages of tight teams
  • Embrace Constraints: Let limitations guide you to creative solutions
  • Act Your Size: Differentiate yourself from the big boys by being small, personal, and friendly
  • The Three Musketeers: Use a team of 3 for v1


  • Develop Mantras: Explicitly define the philosophy of your app
  • Work From Large to Small: Ignore details early on
  • It’s a Problem When It’s a Problem: Don’t waste time on trouble that doesn’t even exist yet
  • Hire the Right Customers: Design for your core market and forget about everyone else
  • Scaling is a Good Problem: Build a solid product and then start worrying about its scaleability
  • Stripped Down: The importance of simplicity and clarity

Feature Selection

  • Fight Features: Build half a product, not a half-ass product
  • Start With No: Make features work hard to be implemented
  • Sum It Up, Fast: If you can’t explain it on one page, don’t do it
  • Hidden Costs: Expose the price of new features
  • Can You Handle It?: Build something you can manage
  • Human Solutions: Make flexible software that encourages people to create their own solutions


  • Race to Running Software: Quickly get something real up and running
  • From Idea to Implementation: Go from brainstorm to sketches to HTML to coding
  • Avoid Preferences: Decide the little details so your customers don’t have to
  • Shrink Your Time: Shorten timelines into bite-size chunks
  • Say “Done”: Decisions are temporary so make the call and move on
  • Rinse and Repeat: Expect multiple iterations
  • Break it Down: Convert big problems into small problems
  • Test in the Wild: Test your app via real-world usage

The Organization

  • Unity: Don’t split into silos
  • Alone Time: Give people uninterrupted time to get things done
  • Meetings Suck: Don’t have meetings that last longer than 30 minutes
  • The Final Say: Give someone the last word
  • Celebrate Good Times: Bask in small victories that come along the way
  • In the Belly of the Beast: Getting real inside a big company is tough but doable


  • Kick the Tires: Work with prospective employees on a test-basis first
  • Quality over Quantity: Hire top-notch talent or don’t hire at all
  • You Can’t Fake Enthusiasm: Go for happy and average over frustrated and great
  • Wordsmiths: Hire good writers


  • Interface First: Design the UI before you start programming
  • Epicenter Design: Start at the “epicenter” of the page and then build outward
  • The Blank Slate: Set expectations with a thoughtful first-run experience
  • Three State Solution: Design for regular, blank, and error states
  • Copywriting is Interface Design: Words are a crucial component of your UI
  • Don’t Go Greek: Use real text instead of lorem ipsum
  • One Interface: Incorporate admin functions into the regular UI


  • Less Software: Keep your code as simple as possible
  • Tools of Passion: Pick tools that excite your team
  • Code Speaks: Listen when your code pushes back
  • Manage Debt: Pay off your code and design “bills”
  • Open Up the Doors: Use APIs to encourage third-party applications


  • Be a Storyteller: Write stories, not details
  • Less Documents: Eliminate long-winded paperwork
  • Spec Off: Don’t write a functional specifications document
  • Don’t Do Dead Documents: The only worthwhile documents are ones that become real

Pricing & Signup

  • Free Samples: Give something away for free
  • Easy On, Easy Off: Make signup (and exit) a painless, no-brainer process
  • Don’t Gouge Your Customers: Avoid long-term contracts, sign-up fees, etc.
  • Minimize the Pain: Soften the blow of bad news with advance notice and exemptions


  • Solicit Early: Get advance buzz and signups going ASAP
  • Name Hook: Give your app a name that’s easy to remember (and don’t worry about being too descriptive)
  • Hollywood Launch: Go from teaser to preview to launch
  • A Powerful Promo Site: Build an ace promotional site that introduces people to your product
  • Blog It: Use blogs to market your product
  • Feature Food: Use new and interesting technologies to get attention
  • Track Your Logs: Study your logs to track buzz
  • Inline Upsell: Promote upgrade opportunities inside the app
  • Promote Through Education: Share your knowledge with the world


  • Feel The Pain: Tear down the walls between support and development
  • Zero Training: Build a product that doesn’t require a manual or training
  • Keep Your Customers Closer: Stay in tune with your customers
  • Answer Quick: Make quick turnaround times to support queries a top priority
  • An Open Forum: Use forums to let customers help each other
  • Publicize Your Screwups: Get bad news out there and out of the way
  • The Customer is Not Always Right: Be willing to say no to your customers


  • A One Month Tuneup: Issue a major update 30 days after launch
  • Better, Not Beta: Don’t use “beta” as a scapegoat
  • Keep the Posts Coming: Show your product is alive by keeping an ongoing product blog post-launch
  • All Bugs Are Not Created Equal: Prioritize your bugs (and even ignore some of them)
  • Improve First Then Add On: Tweak existing features before adding new ones
  • Go With the Flow: Be open to new paths and changes in direction


40 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Scott Meinzer 11 Sep 05

Where can I preorder?

Any idea yet when it will be out? And, can there be a “guess the logos win a signed book contest”? :) It all sounds great.

Ian 11 Sep 05

I’ll buy this.

Here’s where we guess what Amazon pairs this book with for “Buy Together.”

Gyujin Park 11 Sep 05

Wow. Very detailed book that covers a lot of things that I had questioned. It would be very interesting to see how this one turns out. :)

Sage 11 Sep 05

I hope the real book doesn’t use hyphens where there should be en-dashes. ;-)

Scott Hurff 12 Sep 05

I want a copy…pretty much now. Looking forward to it.

James Archer 12 Sep 05

I’ve had a hunch for the past several months that you’d be working on a book like this, so I’ve actually been anticipating it for quite a while now.

I think this will be the tip that pushes 37signals beyond this little community of designers, developers, programmers, and other ne’er-do-wells, and into the mainstream business media. (Assuming you’ve done the book right, of course, which I assume you have.)

Sex Statue 12 Sep 05

Good a website, That’s the stuff !
Best Regards
Sex Maniac

Tom 12 Sep 05

Looks good, will there be a ‘beta’ pdf version ?

Beckie 12 Sep 05

Among all the buzz words, please add “attitude” and “affection”. The right attitude in listening and taking customers seriously. And affection to keep the spirit alive in the solution’s lifecycle.

Jorn Mineur 12 Sep 05

The table of contents looks pretty much complete, do we really need the book? :-)

Sam Aaron 12 Sep 05

Looks really interesting :-) But let me briefly put my grammar fetish hat on (it’s a sort of rubber mask actually) and point out that you can’t have less of a plural… so the title “Less Documents” should actually be “Fewer Documents”. Anyway, I look forward to reading it!

Jorn Mineur 12 Sep 05

Sam, this is an intentional mistake, like “Think different”.

language guy 12 Sep 05

I think “lorem ipsum” is Latin … not Greek

elv 12 Sep 05

Lorem ipsum is latin, not greek. Hope it’s not too late to correct the title ;)

Vanessa Pagan 12 Sep 05

I can’t wait to get this book! It’s all the great stuff I love behind the business and passion of the 37signals crew.

Magnetic I tell you.

Peter Hellerfelt 12 Sep 05

“Lorem ipsum” is latin, written by Cicero in 45 BC. More info here:

Brad 12 Sep 05

Are you going to pull a Seth Godin and offer a huge discount upfront to the sneezers if we buy 100 books at once?

Dan H 12 Sep 05

In the Belly of the Beast: Getting real inside a big company is tough but doable

Looking forward to this especially. Glad it’s included.

Brad 12 Sep 05

Here is a quote by David Ogilvy that seems to validate a lot of what you guys are preaching regaring making yourself your client but from an interesting angle.

“In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative original thinker unless you can also sell what you create. Management cannot be expected to recognize a good idea unless it is presented to them by a good salesman.”

For what it’s worth…

Mark Sigal 12 Sep 05

Well articulated. I would echo Jorn’s comments and suggest finding a way to say what you need to say in 100 pages or less. Given ~80 bullet points that works out to about a page a bullet. Most of what you are saying is highly intuitive (but that isn’t the same as saying it’s obvious — it isn’t) so the real value is in packaging up in as small bites as possible with a use case example that frames the point in practice and moving on.

A side comment/question is, “Who is the bullseye target that ‘hires’ this book?” Wholly new business, existing company launching a new division or new product line, existing business trying to reinvent self, marketing types, techie types?

Christopher Fahey 12 Sep 05

I’m sure the 37signals gang will put a lot of new stuff in the book, especially a coherent structure and a logical flow of ideas… but something neat to consider here is that almost all of the topics listed above have appeared — many of them in great detail — right here on this blog over the past year or two. I assume that many of us who post to this blog have given 37S some good feedback as well, helping them further refine their ideas and flesh them out.

Lesson learned: Publish a coherent, focused blog about something you care deeply about, develop your concepts and ideas publicly in a dialogue with your readership, treat your readers as “real users” and listen to their feedback. Introduce structure and flow. Now you’ve got a book!

Well done!

Christopher Fahey 12 Sep 05

Jorn, I’m pretty cynical about “Think different” being an “intentional mistake”, unless by “intentional” you mean “pandering to the poorly-educated instead of writing proper English and alienating them”. I mean, it’s not like Apple’s ad agency was trying to say, in a clever way, “Dude, writing proper English is for squares! Think different!”

JF, if you are also going to advise businesses to hire excellent writers (which I wholeheartedly agree with), you probably ought to fix it to say “Less Documentation” or “Fewer Documents”. Call me Edwin Newman.

Randall Cobb 12 Sep 05

I meant “international mistake”. Why are some of you such bastards? Think about it.

Sam 12 Sep 05

actually, lorem ipsum is latin - not greek.

Ed 12 Sep 05

The bullet states “Copywriting is Interface Design” not “Proper English is Interface Design”. And what about “Work From Large to Small: Ignore details early on”. Ignore the details!!!!!

Derek 12 Sep 05

plug your own hole? I think its the people who have no capacity to plug there own hole that have more holes to plug… that sounded dirty. But if web developers only solve there own problems they will become very efficient at becoming very efficient but its the laypersons problems that we really need to fix right? Mabye this is why the jabba the hut of web applications sells for half a billion “myspace” ? Because all web developers who are “in” are building another rehash or project management application. I think the really good teams/companies can empathize with teenage girls and grandmothers as well as themselves. Anyway my $.02

Mathew Patterson 13 Sep 05

I think the really good teams/companies can empathize with teenage girls and grandmothers

Maybe if they are run by teenage girls or grandmothers. Or, if they are higly efficient, teenage grandmothers. One of Tom Peters’ big things is getting your management team to be vaguely reminiscent of your target market - i.e more women or more international people etc.

Brady Joslin 13 Sep 05

I’m interested in purchasing this even more than I originally thought now that I see the TOC. The book delves deeper than I had thought it would into the topic.

You know, one thing to address here related to consumption chain usability is allowing the customer to buy what they want when they want. They may be willing to purchase in advance of the product being available, so I’m speaking specifically about allowing pre-orders.

Some of us would likely be interested in dropping our cash now to lock in a copy. Don’t turn away money when it is offered!

Michael van Olden 16 Sep 05

Guys -

How about putting up a simple link to let us register our interest in your book. Once realized, I would love to purchase it. However, I will undoubtably forget all about it after today unless your are smart enough to capture my email address and send an announcement email to me when it is actualized.

Victor 19 Sep 05

Looking forward to it, but I have one request.

Please get New Riders, or whoever is publishing, to do your hard work and design justice and have them use better paper stock and ink than Defensive Design.

I had to return DD4TW to the book store because the screenshots were unreadable. I even had them order a replacement, thinking that it was an anomaly, but the replacement was just as bad.

You guys deserve better and I’ll pay more for it - honest!

pp 20 Sep 05

I vote for an audiobook version…consdier it a “paid podcast” if that sounds cooler.

JF 27 Sep 05

Please get New Riders, or whoever is publishing, to do your hard work and design justice and have them use better paper stock and ink than Defensive Design.

Yes, New Riders totally botched that. What happened was that after the first printing sold out (that was high quality), they switched to a print on demand situation to keep the book well stocked at retailers. Well, that process dropped the quality big time. We didn’t know about it (or have any say) until some people started complaining. New Riders won’t use that print process anymore.

BTW: The Getting Real book will be self published.

Julian 28 Sep 05

Oh how come it’s not opensource ;-)

Andrew 29 Sep 05

Yopru should publish it as one of those Fridays PDFs over at Pragmatic Progammers.

Reinier Meenhorst 29 Sep 05

Looks more than promising guys!
Where can I pre-order?

Ryan Allen 29 Sep 05

Can’t wait for this! Pre-Order for me too!

Ian Waring 28 Jan 06

Published yet? On it’s way??

PxlDancer 28 Jan 06

Does anyone know when book releases?