Getting Real, The smarter faster, easier way to build a successful web application by Casecamp – 37Signals [Book Review]

If I read this book four years ago, it would have saved us years of headaches and frustrations and resources. And we probably would have been a lot more profitable!

Hi, everyone, Mostafa here hope all as well

Today I’m doing a book review on a book called Getting Real by Basecamp. It’s an absolutely amazing book.

37signals is the company that created Basecamp, which is a project management software. Today, as I checked, they have over 3.5 million subscribers. So these guys seem to know what they’re doing. And they’re sharing their experience on how to design a web application in this book.

However, the concepts and the ideas that they’re sharing in a book, you can use it in a web application, product design, service design, process designs, and pretty much everywhere else in life.


Very, very important, very, very powerful.

I really wish that I read this book maybe four or five years ago, and if I did, it would have made a huge impact on my life. I own a software, a WordPress plugin called WP spellcheck, which does proofreading for your WordPress websites. It finds spelling errors, grammar errors, broken code SEO opportunities in the rest of it.

If I read this book four years ago, it would have saved us years of headaches and frustrations and resources. And we probably would have been a lot more profitable, and the rest of it. So I’m going to read some notes that I’ve taken from the book and share the ideas with you. And I strongly suggest that you pick up the book and read it.


It’s a free book that you can download it on their website. So if you search Getting Real by Basecamp, you’ll see the link to their free PDF of the book. And you can also actually buy the book and Amazon if you want the print format.

So let me get into it and dig into the ideas. Pardon me as I’m reading through my notes on my phone, and sharing ideas with you. So he says or they say that when they were designing the product or the software, here’s what they kept in mind, IF it wasn’t essential, we left it out. If it was not essential, they left it out.


They asked the question: does this matter?

And if the answer was no, they left it out

Does the client care about this? If the answer is no, they left it out. And then they tried to stick to the important stuff and what matters. Essentials; it’s very, very important!

Most of the time, you see a lot of softwares that add a lot of options to it. They add a lot of bells and whistles to it. And I’m going to go over how that’s going to hurt you here in a bit.


He says: when we started on backpack, which is another application that they have, our enemy was a structure and rigid rules. So they were trying to follow too much structure and rigid rules that wasn’t allowing them to innovate and make things happen.

When it came to size, nimble, agile, less mass businesses can quickly change their entire business model, product feature set and marketing message.

So if it’s small, it’s better


In the software world, the bigger the software becomes, the harder it becomes to maintain. The more you have to do, the more it breaks, maybe, conflicts with other softwares and different environments. So it becomes a lot harder to maintain and update, and the rest of it.

But if you keep it simple, if you keep it organized and to the point, then you don’t have that problem anymore.

When it came to, again to the design, here are things that do it don’t matter.


List of things that don’t matter when it comes to product design:

    • Too much detail does not matter
    • Too specific does not matter.
    • If it doesn’t change your behavior, it doesn’t matter.
    • The best designers are the ones that can determine what does not matter.

Again, the best designers are the ones that can determine what doesn’t matter. So not the guys that are constantly coming up with ideas that don’t matter.


The best designers are the ones that can determine what doesn't matter. So not the guys that are constantly coming up with ideas that don't matter.


Innovation is not about saying yes to everything. It’s about saying no to all but the most crucial features.

So he says: for every new feature, you need to say no, every new offer, every new thing that you want to come up with or add to the list or to the product, you need to first say:  no!

Force the feature to prove its value. If no, again, you stop. If yes, you continue and you work on developing the feature on your product. but,  you have to say no first.


Don’t worry about tracking and saving every customer that comes in

Let your customers be your memory. If it’s worth remembering, they’ll remind you until you can’t forget.

Just because one guy showed up and says boo, I don’t like the color of your software, or you know, I don’t like this thing in your product, you’re not going to turn around, and then put the entire team on changing it based on what that one customer wants.

Now, this may sound pretty, simple and easy to understand but I actually went through this problem.

One customer emails and says, Oh my god, I don’t like this. So bam, we just changed it around because one guy said, I don’t like it!

Just because X number of people asked for something doesn’t mean you should do it, stick to your vision.

So if what they’re asking is NOT part of your vision, part of how your software or product or service should operate, you just ignore it.

If what they're asking is NOT part of your vision, part of how your software or product or service should operate, you just ignore it!


It doesn’t matter. Some people just want different things. You just have to stick to your vision.


Here are some important, powerful concepts from Basecamp’s Getting Real: 


Ask people what they DON”T want

Bring them in front of your software, product or service and ask them what they do not want. And then take out this stuff that they don’t want. This obviously has to be done with a few people. So it’s not like one guy telling you that, oh, I don’t like this and then you take it out. So you have to do your research and spend your time on it. That’s another important one.


Reduce the options or no options at all

The reason that these guys grew to 3.5 million users, It’s because it’s very simple. They keep their stuff simple. It’s not complicated, too many options complicate and confuses people.


Make the decision for them, they do not want to make decisions

Keep that in mind. eliminate confusion, make sure that nothing is confusing in there. any part of your software, any part of your website, any part of your service product, your processes, if it’s confusing, you need to eliminate it or, add a feature or try to eliminate the confusion for them


Constantly search for trouble spots that create confusion and frustration

I just heard of this story where Disney has people walking around Disneyland, finding spots where people are slowing down and try to find out what’s confusing them, what’s frustrating them. And they’re trying to eliminate the cause and source of confusion by adding signs, by naming and renaming buildings and roads and whatnot to eliminate the confusion in there.


Build a tool that requires zero training

If you have a product or service, try to build it so it doesn’t require any training. It’s very simple. People understand or have very little training.

You don’t want to leave it for people to try to figure everything out. And by these guys that have applied these principles and they got 3.5 million users, I think that the concepts work, I applied these concepts to our software right away and we saw results right away. It’s very relieving.

It’s very relaxing when you try to keep it simple, when you stick to your vision and do all the good things with the concepts and grow your software in your business and your practice.

Anyway, I hope that this review helped you.


Do pick up Basecamp’s Getting Real.  It is free, but it’s worth a million bucks. Read it and if you like Basecamp’s book, let me know!

Get in touch if you have any questions.

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We always come up with videos on reviewing books that I read or different marketing or business concepts or problems that we encounter with our clients.

Have yourself a great day and looking forward to serving and supporting

Mostafa Hosseini,

Your business marketing coach

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