I enjoyed listening to this podcast interview with Jason Fried of 37signals and would highly recommend taking the time to listen to this 51 minute treat. Jason offers much solid business, often seen on their blog, such as: keep it simple, grow an audience, say no often, listen to yourself, build great products…
Jason also talks about their experience with software design, giving interesting insight into the software (Basecamp) that can make or break a day for us here at Needmore. His team benefits from thinking of themselves as primary customers. This makes sense – when you are using a product daily, you really get to know what works and what is a nuisance. When you get annoyed, you make change quickly.
37signals is doing amazing work with Basecamp and I use it everyday with clients. While the 37’s probably use Basecamp much more than I, they don’t appear to engage so much in client work anymore. And, it shows in the software.
The result is a slipping consistency with features related to client communication (examples abound: poor bounce handling, lack of ability to get RSS feeds for all posts…) This gradual shift in priorities is a real bummer for me, yet is probably not a nuisance for the countless number of individuals using the software for internal projects, as fancy new features keep cropping up, such as Writebaord (which is certainly worth a look).
While this focus is frustrating as a consumer, it fascinates me from the standpoint of a business. I am curious to see how long such gaps can continue. As the software grows and changes, perhaps there is always the possibility that the pendulum of focus will swing back again to include solid client communication.
The truth is, I will continue to use the product either way, because it is the best tool out there. I can’t help but wonder what life would be like if it was just that extra bit more solid as a communication tool. And, I definitely believe that 37signals has it in them to deliver.