Jason Fried

April 13, 2024

Surface area vs. Depth in product design

Some of the most rewarding features to add to products are ones that don’t increase surface area, but increase depth.

This is how you continue to make a product a whole lot better without it feeling like it got a whole lot bigger.

Basecamp’s new References feature is a great example of this.

Video + write-up:

Barely any surface area — just a subtle tab down by the comments section. It’s almost not even there. Easy to ignore if you aren’t interested, but click that tab and a whole world of connections opens up. That’s the depth.

All the sudden you can see how this is related to that, who’s referenced it across the entire system, how recently it’s been discussed (is it “alive” or “dead”), and where the energy is around the topic.

Surface area vs. Depth. An important thing to internalize when designing 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.