Just buy it

Written by David Frampton @ 11:49 pm, August 29, 2010

Whenever some software shows up that might make my job easier, my initial, gut reaction is ‘no, I can do fine without it’. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that, and I’m sure plenty of people listen to that reaction and go on to make do without.

But that is wrong. I have learned to fight that reaction, to the extent where if it even has any chance of making my job easier, and I can afford it, I get it. Nine times out of ten that software will go on to either save or make far more money than what it cost to purchase.

From shareware apps like Soulver or AppViz to big fat apps like Cinema 4D or Photoshop to hardware like a faster Mac or a bigger display, I never regret buying any of them. They allow me to do things I wouldn’t otherwise be able to do in less time, of better quality, and nearly always ultimately pay for themselves.

A bad craftsman may well blame his tools, but a good craftsman never has to.


  1. Bryan Duke

    So true! Buy quality tools & use ‘em.

    Comment by Bryan Duke — August 30, 2010 @ 12:31 am

  2. Nicholas

    There is an anti-pattern for this. Very often this behaviour will cost you time in the long term. You are completely ignoring the barrier to entry, whether or not the tool actually answers your problem correctly, if the tool adds more work… I could go on.

    You are advocating a sort of blind adoption pattern, and forgetting that it takes a significant amount of time to see a return on investment on a good tool. (Photoshop could take years for instance)

    And I still haven’t mentioned the extra issues this can cause in a team atmosphere when everyone is using different tool sets. (Why do you think some companies clone computer setups)

    Usually a good software company will have a tools team who spend part of their days evaluating and recommending tools that help workflow, and then make the proper investment (accepting an early loss) to bring their team up to speed.

    Comment by Nicholas — August 30, 2010 @ 12:53 am

  3. David Frampton


    I can’t comment on larger companies, as I’m out of touch with that environment.

    But you raise some interesting points. I think in general indie developers don’t buy enough tools, and so was trying to encourage people to analyze their behavior. I agree it is entirely possible to buy the wrong tool for the job.

    And good point on the time until return on investment, though it would never take years, unless, again, you bought the wrong tool for the job.

    Comment by David Frampton — August 30, 2010 @ 1:03 am

  4. Nicholas

    Photoshop does actually takes years to master. You can’t expect to buy Photoshop, even as an art expert, and start saving money. Though certainly Photoshop is an obvious choice for digital artists.

    Digital workers should be critical of the tools they include in their tool-box. A good craftsman knows how to choose and integrate his/her tools.

    The “buy it” mantra, is more likely to create a graveyard of unused icons on your desktop than reveal a path to ultimate efficiency.

    Comment by Nicholas — August 30, 2010 @ 2:09 am

  5. David Frampton

    YMMV, especially if you missed the “if it even has any chance of making my job easier, and I can afford it” part and just go out and buy Photoshop for someone who is going to take 2 years to learn how to use it expecting it to pay for itself.

    But yes, I go by some kind of “buy it” mantra, have very few unused desktop icons, and think of myself as extremely efficient and making excellent use of all the tools at my disposal. And I fight that urge to make do with my old tools every single time. Which was my point.

    “Don’t hesitate to buy something that will help make your job easier” was the advice I was giving, and I absolutely stand by it.

    Comment by David Frampton — August 30, 2010 @ 7:47 am

  6. Benjohn

    Think as an indie, fighting against the “but hey, that costs money!” is something I’ve had a lot of trouble learning, but I mostly agree with you.

    It’s important to extend the thinking to (test) hardware. I’ve just bought another three iOS devices (two second hand) so that I can improve my testing coverage. I’m monumentally stupid not to have done this about 6 months ago – this is my family’s entire livelihood I’m looking after here! Had I made the purchase sooner, I might have caught some of the bugs that slipped in to the last version I shipped.

    So far they’ve not cost me bad reputation because, very fortunately, the lovely customers have come to me and I’ve been able to help them around the bugs. But I’ve been bloody lucky. I’m pretty sure a single bad review or vocal annoyed customer could easily have cost tens of times more than the hardware investment I’ve made. Even so, I’ve probably (w)racked up an opportunity cost from customers that bought the software, found the bug, and then didn’t tell their friends about the awesome App they just downloaded.

    I’m thinking about tools I’ve chosen not to buy in the past, like a good screen cast creator. If I had one, I’d probably have a small pile of informal App screen cast tutorials by now, and I could point people at those for help, instead of needing to point them at a written document that’s just not such a useful explanation.

    Comment by Benjohn — August 30, 2010 @ 8:46 am

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