In the past, I’ve been a fan of 37 Signals. I believe that they were ahead of their day in user interface design and simplicity. Their book, Getting Real, still has an impact in how I develop, design, and build product requirements. I’ve utilizing a Basecamp account and tracked several of my projects and clients in there since last summer.
While reading the 37 Signals blog over the last year, I’ve noticed that the tone of the blog has changed dramatically, becoming more judgmental and finite rather than inquisitive and exploratory. Case in point, this post. 37 Signals totally dismisses online/offline applications on the premise that connectivity is something we will all have, everywhere. Here’s my comment that I wrote on the blog:
The perspective you?re looking at this is so narrow that I?m genuinely shocked as a fan of 37 signals. You are mixing online and offline functionality with Internet Connectivity.
This is not a question of being connected, it’s a question of resource management. If I can have an application that utilizes the resources of a laptop as effectively as that of a server, as well as balancing the use of bandwidth between the two, it can create a fantastic user experience for all involved.
I also added a note that the use of the f-bomb was absolutely unnecessary. In a poll I did on my blog, about 40% of the response stated that they didn’t like the use of cussing on the web. In many posts, I’ve seen it used in a humorous fashion… but in the 37 signals blog it was confrontational… to me, the reader that might disagree with them. It was disrespectful. Don’t get me wrong, I cuss (too much). But I don’t do it on my blog where I try to connect with my readers rather than alienate them.
Swearing is not the reason I canceled my Basecamp Account today, though. Out of the 12 users I had, I was the only one that actually used Basecamp. I think one other friend of mine added a single To-do item, other than that I was the only user for the last year (and I paid for the account). IMHO, the real test of an application’s usability is whether or not people actually use it. My clients and co-workers didn’t. In fact, I think they avoided using it because it was not that user-friendly.
That’s also not the reason I canceled, though. A couple days ago, their blog introduced another chunk of ignorance: People don’t scroll…emails. Perhaps they should have spoken to the 6,000 clients that we serve that get incredible conversion and click-through rates on well designed emails that require scrolling. ‘Above the fold’ theory still stands – the information that readers see when first opening an email is what engages them. That does NOT mean that they don’t scroll, though! So – without any data to support their ridiculous statement, readers of the Signals vs. Noise blog will now believe them and write emails that are not informative, useful, well-designed, etc… all because some blog told them that this was the definitive answer.
The reason why I canceled my Basecamp account is that I’ve lost faith in 37 Signals. I’m not sure if it’s arrogance from the growth and success of their company, but their glow has fizzled. I’m still a fan of some of the simple functionality of their applications… but the applications as a whole don’t seem to be changing the landscape as they had done in the past. See ya later, 37! It was fun while it lasted.
Ironically, I switched to iGTD, a desktop app.