The Trend Toward Smaller Software

The buzz surrounding software like Basecamp in Blinksale has definitely been mounting over the last year or so. I can’t say that I’m surprised because I fully intend to investigate these apps much more deeply if (when!) I take on a freelance job. This recent SVN post gives several good reasons why 37signals software is so successful.

While reading that post, I got to thinking that the problem with small business apps isn’t really that they’re just scaled down versions of the big boys. In all honesty, a reduced feature version of Quicken would probably be just as good a solution for most people.

The problem with scaled-down apps is two-fold. The first problem is execution. These folks are completely mired in a software development mentality and make little room for interface design. In the places I’ve worked as a technical writer and instructional designer, the interface boys and girls, like technical writers and instructional designers, are an afterthought. Code is king and user experience is too touchy-feely for most companies to comprehend. This leads to serious problems on the front-end. This is not really news but needs to be restated once in while. The current software development system is still a Byzantine abomination left over from the early days when the engineer and coder were king. The engineer and coder are no longer king but merely individual players on crowded stage. Big companies don’t seem to get that.

The other problem is legacy. In the past, features were the main thing that people looked for. This is still true but now the shift is from having all new and exciting features to having features that are actually necessary. having the appropriate number of features is a feature in itself.

Companies that have been building apps for a long time are victims of feature-itis which has resulted in a bloated software app. When it comes to stripping features out for the scaled-down version, the big boys don’t know where to start. And once they start, they’re left with removing poorly executed features and leaving poorly executed features.

This leaves ample room for the little fellow to get a leg up. Basecamp and the upcoming Blinksale are mentioned freqently. Other small companies like Delicious Monster and Jumsoft are also benefitting from proper execution and no legacy. It seems to be a great time to be a software developer.

posted at - 10:53 pm - 7/25/2005


Awhile back there was a ruckus about BBEdit 8.0. BBEdit has rightfully gained a loyal following. I personally used it to code this site and still have the freeware version kicking around on my hard drive.

But frankly, I’ve never felt comfortable with BBEdit. It’s a great text editor but it seemed a bit stark as well as entirely overpowered (if that’s possible) for a hack like me. So the search began for a decent text editor that I could live with and would hopefully be free.

The first one to catch my eye was Web Minimalist which is a freakin’ awesome little app for hand coding web pages. I used it for a site or two with no problems.

Then I stumbled over Smultron and Oh Baby! It’s definitely not the most powerful text editor out there but it totally hit my sweet spot. Syntax colouring, code snippets, advanced find and replace and, the crowning glory: projects.

Now all this pants wetting over a little app like this might be a bit much but really, in this case, it’s not how much it can do but how well it can fit into my way of working. And it fits nicely thank you very much.

The only quibble? I have to save the document before previewing. On-the-fly preview for the next rev, please.

posted at - 9:30 pm - 11/23/2004

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