Jason Fried

February 5, 2024

Making it balance

One of my greatest pleasures at work is trying to find that point where everything feels just right. Nothing more, nothing less, but right there in the pocket.

It's almost fractal. It's there in every component, in every feature, in every flow, in every sequence, in every product, in every decision, inside everything across the company.

How do you know when it's just right? It's the same feeling you get when you try to balance something physical.

You know it. You put something on something else and try to find that center of gravity... A bit to the right, oops too much. Lean back to the left... Steady... Steady... Ugh, too much push. Stack it up again, find that center... Wobble, bobble, almost... And then it locks in. Da! There it is.

All the sudden the pushing and pulling forces disappear and it's just there, on its own. Still, in harmony and equanimity. That's what just right feels like.

It's easy to experience physically because our bodies speak the language. We feel the weight, we intuit the momentum. Our internal gyroscopes sense  balance, and transfers it into objects we touch.

But when it comes to intellectual, conceptual things like business or software, we have to shift into the imagined sense of balance. We don't get the free borders, edges, weights, shapes, and gravity, to help us find that middle. Muscles don't pull on tendons don't pull on bones. Our nerves don't get the signals for free.

So I imagine. If this was physical, would it balance? I literally think about the center of gravity of an idea, a feature, a button, an idea, a product. Is there too much weight over here? Too much over there? If this whole thing was in stone, would it crash to one side? Or would it stand a chance of staying upright? Would it be at rest, or would it want to fall?

Once you find that spot — the right set of features, the right flows, the right yesses and the right no's, you stop. That's v1. Once you find the balance, you aim to stay in balance. Adding more, but in a balanced way to maintain the form, to keep the center. To hold steady.

It's a beautiful thing.

That's how I think about making products.


About Jason Fried

Hey! I'm Jason, the Co-Founder and CEO at 37signals, makers of Basecamp and HEY. Subscribe below to follow my thinking on business, design, product development, and whatever else is on my mind. Thanks for visiting, thanks for reading.