Is 37signals Overrated?

I started thinking about web app developer 37signals after reading an article tonight from InformationWeek called “Is 37signals The New Google?“.

Obviously the author is just having fun speculating, but he points out many things about simplicity and elegance being a focus and how Google has had similar characteristics in it’s early days.

I agree to a point, but I also wonder a bit if 37signals is currently a bit overrated. Let me point out that I like their products, I’m impressed with their work and what they’ve done, and I’m sure they’re experiencing tremendous user growth and that they have a bright future. I also like their “less is more” philosophy.

However, there is a lot of hype about them right now. There are a few questions that would help evaluate if the hype is deserved or not:

What percentage of users who are currently signing up are still using their products after a couple of weeks?

That’s a problem with the “organization” applications, people get on kicks to get organized, and then their interest drops off. It’s not something most people continually keep up with from what I’ve seen. With Google, you have to search to find things.

How many people using Backpack and Basecamp are paying for the upgraded versions?

I’m actually paying for one, so I can see people doing it, but I’m just curious if the majority of users are really upgrading and paying, or tire kicking.

Why so many domain names?

I’ve already encountered confusion with myself trying to remember my Basecamp domain name, and I’ve seen other people confused about Backpack being at Backpackit.com, and Writeboard having a different domain, and Basecamp having multiple domains. It just seems like that could be organized better.

After users learn the application, won’t they want more features?

I’m not really arguing for more features here, but I already have encountered a situation where one of their applications I was using was too limiting, so I moved to a different product. “Less is more” is great, until someone needs something you don’t have.

I am really glad to hear that they’ve got a small business CRM application coming, because I use Salesforce often and find it has too much bloat.

Regardless, I applaud their applications and hope they keep up the good work, but I also think we need to keep a level head before proclaiming them to be the next 800 pound gorilla.

  • http://9rules.com Mike Rundle

    Well to be fair about Tadalist, it’s a free application. The next step up would be Backpack, as it has all the features that Tada has plus a whole lot more.

  • ehs

    yes, they are grossly over-rated.

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