For some time I have been a fan of the work done by 37Signals. They have a great understanding of the value of building simple software that people fiind useful. They recently self published Get Real: The smarter, faster, easier way to build a successful web application. This book is the best book I have read this year about building software–it is a good reminder of principles to follow when designing software.
I especially liked their section on Feature Selection. In a nutshell they believe in keeping their software simple and usable. They talk about saying “no” to new feature requests that don’t maintain the voice of the software. This book does a good job making you think about the hidden costs of new features, including proper usability testing, documentation, testing, fixing bugs for years to come, and most important interface clutter. I especially liked this quote:
Each time you say yes to a feature, you’re adopting a child. You have to take your baby through a whole chain of events (e.g. design, implmentation, testing, etc). And once that feature’s out there, you’re stuck with it.
This is particularly interesting to Access applications because it is so easy to add new features to your app. However, every table, form, query, and report have hidden costs that aren’t as obvious.
This book is filled with short passages that ring true to anyone who has build software. Not everything they write about is applicable for a large product like Access but it is spot-on for many Access apps. I’m going to encourage all the program managers on my team to give it a read.
You can get the book in PDF, online, or paperback: http://getreal.37signals.com/.