Book Review: Design Evolution

“… for most of my friends building products, the future is to charge for them. The concept is as old as business itself and it’s the most reliable and authentic way to build a company: provide value that is greater than the value paid for it.”

The above quote is from the new Five Simple Steps Pocket Guide – Design Evolution by Josh Long. This little book is part of series three of the Pocket Guide series, my own CSS3 Layout Modules being part of the first series of these books.

I love short, well focused books and I am always interested to read anything on the business of developing products and companies in the web. There is always something to be learned from the experiences of other people who are doing this.

Design Evolution does not disappoint. It’s a practical little book that definitely provides more value to the product developer than the £2.00 you will pay for it. In the first section Josh explains how to break down your business and product into the different elements, allowing you to focus on small improvements in each of the different areas. This is something we’ve been trying to do at Perch. When you have a product business there are a huge number of areas competing for your time and attention, it’s easy to become swamped and not know what to tackle next. If you feel you are moving things forward in each area – even in small ways – I find that really helps to combat the overloaded feeling.

The second section “Reduce to the essence” encourages business owners to reduce their offering down to the “smallest and best possible version”. It includes some great tips and case studies demonstrating how and why to do this.

The opening quote for this post comes from the third section entitled, “Focus on core users”. This is something we have worked really hard to do at Perch and I found myself nodding along to the advice in this part of the book. Creating bonds with the users who really love your product is incredibly valuable as a business, but also really enjoyable.

Sales and marketing is the thing I find hardest as a product owner. From my conversations with other developers I’m not alone in that. The section of the book covering this topic is full of examples that are achievable for all of us encouraging small actions across different channels to incrementally expand the business. The book wraps up with a section about growth, encouraging businesses to grow by making their product better for those who love it.

I think this is a lovely little book, written as advice from one business owner to another. Even as the owner of a four year old product there were things in the book that gave me new ideas to implement. It should be essential reading for anyone about to launch or with a newly launched product. Much of the book also underlined techniques that have really worked for us at Perch, it encourages a style of business that I personally love and believe works far better than pinning your hopes on a model that relies on being able to sell your company for a few million.

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