Since January, we have been experimenting with a new way of working. Two programmers and one designer form a team and take on projects in short, mostly two week, iterations. It’s been a great success so far and has resulted in a huge list of new features across all 37signals products. But after two full terms of new features, one of our teams decided to start the third term with a little spring cleaning.

The three of us had something different to bring to this term — each of us had been focusing mostly on customer support recently. Jamis and Jeff were fresh off terms in our support programmer role and I had spent the last few months working daily to help customers on our Answers forum. That gave us a unique perspective on our products. We came together having each experienced all of the little things that can be big headaches for our customers. So we spent the past two weeks fixing, polishing, re-writing, and improving the places that we’d seen the most confusion from customers first hand.

Here is some of what we were able to accomplish:

Sign up/Sign in:
  • Re-wrote and re-designed the sign in error states so that we could explain in context why someone’s login may not be working.
  • Improved the sign in link to make it more visible when creating new product accounts.
  • Added better detection and prevention of duplicate signups.
  • Cleaned up and fixed various display issues with 37signals ID email notifications.
  • Modernized the sign in screens using CSS instead of transparent PNG images.
  • When inviting new users, detect duplicates. This warns admins that they may be trying to invite someone who is already on their account avoiding multiple sign in confusion.
  • Stop trying to automatically create users on an integrated Campfire account and simplify the process—members enter chats as themselves, non-members enter as guests.
  • Fixed that the responsible party pulldown for to-dos shouldn’t include people who can’t see private items
  • Fixed a longstanding issue with reordering of To-do templates.
  • Corrected the decimal precision of the total number of hours displayed on time pages.
  • Resolved various display issues, from text formatting to icon alignment.
  • Updated monospaced font styles to render more consistently and attractively across browsers and platforms.
  • Updated and improved iCal and API authentication copy.
  • Exposed better invoice options, such as the email address and ‘Bill to’ field on the Account tab.
  • Introduced per-user iCal feed to fix a recurring time bug whenever DST changes.
  • Fixed an annoying issue with editing multi-day events that could result in the start date being incorrectly set to next year.

Improving our products isn’t just about new features. Polishing, re-writing, fixing, and improving existing features can do just as much to make them better and more enjoyable to use. Many of these fixes were directly related to repeated questions or suggestions from our customers so we’ll be keeping an eye on support to measure their impact.

If you’re interested in keeping up with changes to our products as they happen, you can see them all on our 37signals change history page or follow @37changes for our Twitter feed of product updates.