Designing Perfection – A Waste of Time?
I know it’s a little bit old but I read an article on Dustin Curtis blog recently about how perfection is a make or break element of a performance or product – and craftsmanship has been lost… and I don’t agree.
In fact, most creative industries throughout history have had this component, called craftsmanship, and it’s a bond between creator and user. But it seems to have been lost, somehow, in the expanding bureaucracy and process of modern companies.
Dustin looks back at an article by Teller from the magic duo – Penn and Teller. In the article Teller talks (repeatedly) about how magicians will spend more time and effort than it’s worth to fool someone in one magic trick. Dustins theory then, is that perfection takes time, but it’s worth it for the overall performance (or in our case website).
I don’t disagree that perfection is a worthwhile goal – but I do disagree that it’s realistically attainable. Or rather – that we all have the luxury of time and money that people like Penn and Teller (and possibly Dustin) have.
At our small design shops (Pro Theme Design) and at the day job (Miniclip) we don’t always have the time to make things perfect – at least not in version 1 – but this doesn’t reduce our passion or craftsmanship for the job.
Perfection is Not Attainable
Arguably – on the internet in particular – perfection isn’t realistic. No matter how much time and effort you put into a product there is always something that can be improved.
Until your product is in users hands you can’t tell how they will use it or what they will do so, in my opinion, there’s no point making everything perfect in iteration 1 – since you’re going to have to change it again in future versions.
Earlier I mentioned my theme site – Pro Theme Design – and that we don’t have the luxury of making things that are perfect. But we sell a product. How do we sell something that’s not perfect?
Well, much like WordPress, we sell something that does what 99% of people will want – but there’s always going to be something that someone wants added. Luckily WordPress has so many plugins that it can generally be done with them instead – but even then it doesn’t answer all the questions.
Plus – WordPress is constantly evolving – so we have to adapt and rewrite and reprogram. This is why our perfect version 1 of Mimbo Pro is now on version 4.1.
When we first created Mimbo Pro the WordPress themes marketplace was sooo different to how it is today. Free themes often came with instructions on how to edit the PHP code to add things to your sidebar. It was crazy – but this was how WordPress worked. The fact that we released the theme and it included a control panel was amazing – but now these things are standard and so we have to keep evolving to stay ahead of the game – and keep making our product ‘more perfect’.
In addition we added support for all sorts of things, such as contact forms, and google analytics tracking. These are things that are better served by plugins – and so we’ve, only recently, removed this functionality in favor of a simpler more streamlined approach.
Good Enough is Good Enough?
Often there’s a fine line between perfect and good enough – but that line can take a lot of effort to cross. When looking at business objectives – it’s hard to justify spending time on the details that make a product perfect. What’s more – the average user isn’t going to notice those fine details.
I am a bit of a perfectionist – but even on this site there are elements I’m not happy with that definitely aren’t perfect. There’s all sorts of things I haven’t finished or need to tweak/ test/ improve – but most people don’t care. They just want to talk about my projects, or look at pictures of Disney princesses.
My solution is selective perfection. Focus your attention on the areas that matter the most to your business and your product. Make the sign-up form perfect – pour sweat into the payment screen, make these things (or your equivalents) shine – because they are the things that matter most to your business.
Then – if you have some time at the end – make those other bits perfect as well, but keep in mind that this isn’t a magic show, there’s always room for improvement.
The Death of the Craftsman
So – has craftsmanship died? I think that to be a craftsman – you don’t have to be the best at your craft – but you do have to be passionate about being the best you can be, and applying yourself to the best of your ability.
I think that most people who work in creative industries want this – despite the bureaucracy and process of modern companies both the team at Miniclip, and Darren and I at Pro Theme Design, are very passionate about creating the best products we can – and we all work very hard with long hours to create the best products possible.
Perhaps we’re unique – but I don’t believe that. Just because perfection isn’t realistic, it doesn’t mean that people don’t do their best, it just means they have some additional restrictions that they need to work around. It’s just another challenge to work around.
Wood Image from Shutterstock