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What 37Signals "Getting Real" Can Teach Online Retailers

getting-realDear Reader, the odds are you work in marketing for an established online retailer.

The odds are much lower that you're toiling in a three-person web 2.0 startup.

Nonetheless, there's considerable wisdom to be gained from 37Signals Getting Real book. This series of essays focuses on what makes 37Signals successful.

With some translation, many of their points are relevant to online retailers. Yes, in Marketing, you probably have limited control over your developers, and yes, as a complex retailer, simplicity went out the window several years back. Regardless.

Still. I recommend checking out Getting Real, and seeing which of their suggestions could help make your company more nimble.

Assorted quotes I bookmarked:

Constraints are often advantages in disguise.

Most of the time you spend is wasted on things that just don't matter. If you can cut out the work and thinking that just don't matter, you'll achieve productivity you've never imagined.

Estimates that stretch into weeks or months are fantasies. The truth is you just don't know what's going to happen that far in advance. So shrink your time. Keep breaking down timeframes into smaller chunks. Instead of a 12 week project, think of it as 12 weeklong projects.
Set up a rule at work: Make half the day alone time. From 10am-2pm, no one can talk to one another (except during lunch). Or make the first or the last half of the day the alone time period. Just make sure this period is contiguous in order to avoid productivity-killing interruptions.
Do you really need a meeting? Meetings usually arise when a concept isn't clear enough. Instead of resorting to a meeting, try to simplify the concept so you can discuss it quickly via email or im or Campfire. The goal is to avoid meetings. Every minute you avoid spending in a meeting is a minute you can get real work done instead.
If you are trying to decide between a few people to fill a position, always hire the better writer. It doesn't matter if that person is a designer, programmer, marketer, salesperson, or whatever, the writing skills will pay off. Effective, concise writing and editing leads to effective, concise code, design, emails, instant messages, and more.
Epicenter design focuses on the true essence of the page — the epicenter — and then builds outward. This means that, at the start, you ignore the extremities: the navigation/tabs, footer, colors, sidebar, logo, etc. Instead, you start at the epicenter and design the most important piece of content first.
That's why context is more important than consistency. It's ok to be inconsistent if your design makes more sense that way. Give people just what matters. Give them what they need when they need it and get rid of what they don't. It's better to be right than to be consistent.

Your code can guide you to fixes that are cheap and light. Pay attention when an easy path emerges. Sure, the feature that's easy to make might not be exactly the same as the feature you originally had in mind but so what? If it works well enough and gives you more time to work on something else, it's a keeper.

Build, don't write. If you need to explain something, try mocking it up and prototyping it rather than writing a longwinded document. An actual interface or prototype is on its way to becoming a real product. A piece of paper, on the other hand, is only on its way to the garbage can.
Lorem ipsum changes the way copy is viewed. It reduces text-based content to a visual design element — a shape of text — instead of what it should be: valuable information someone is going to have to enter and/or read. Dummy text means you won't see the inevitable variations that show up once real information is entered. It means you won't know what it's like to fill out forms on your site. Dummy text is a veil between you and reality.

Link: Getting Real, 37Signals

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