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Designing for Perfection


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I am a perfectionist, much to my detriment, and a “1px perfectionist” to boot. I will spend way too much time fixing something that is literally off by just a single pixel because I can see the error, even if my client and his site visitors are unlikely to notice it.

Although this level of insanity isn’t really helping anyone, I do think there’s a difference between “acceptable” and “pretty good”. It’s one thing to waste lots of time on things that really don’t matter and won’t be noticed. But it’s quite another thing to give an 80% effort, especially when you know you’re not giving 100%.

I heard an excerpt from the Steve Jobs book regarding an experience when Steve was a kid and helping his dad build a fence. His dad said to make the back look as good as the front, even though no one would see it. The lesson to Steve was that he would know if he had done shoddy work, even if no one else did.

I feel the same way about my web design and coding work. My clients deserve the best of my ability, even if they’re getting something they didn’t ask for and won’t notice.

Barnaby Walters

In terms of launching, I follow Paul boag’s approach: if it’s better than the old site, release it.

Striving for perfection is especially wrong in the world of browsers, which is why I’ll never do any serious mocking up of websites in a graphics app.

I find that constantly asking myself “how is [what I’m doing right now] benefitting the project?”. If it isn’t, I stop and do something useful.

George Papadakis

Been there so many times Paul.

In my opinion it all boils down to fear.

The fear of not being perfect (in our eyes, not to others) keeps us locked down.

The Web is inheriting the properties of life.

In other words, the same rules that apply to our lives and relationships are passed (from us) to Web, since we want the web to evolve to what we call “life” nowadays..

Simon Cox

I do that kitchen thing as well..

At work I find that everyone is more than happy with what i would consider an 80% completed job. It gets difficult knowing when a piece is finished enough to do its job so crashing stuff out then reiteratively going back to add detail if it is really required is a good way of getting the workloads moved out of the sink.

I look forward to seeing massive amounts of output from you next year! (More on Editorial design?)

Tony Mosley

This OCD thing also effects how designers interact within their profession, when micro-managing all spects of a job means that they are unwilling to share the burden because the final output might be tainted- and therefore they dissasiate themselves with that part of the job…

There’s a real danger that the not only do they abandon the kitchen to the ‘dirty people’ and eat from tins in their rooms, but also to end up only living in that one little room because it’s controllable.

The death of any potential and social skills, you’ve got to be brave and only push things out early… who knows over time you might be proved wrong.

Laura Earley

Man I can relate to your “kitchen rage” to a T. I let something so trivial like cleaning the kitchen or making sure my designs are pixel perfect consume me. Definitely need to stop that.

Jake Rocheleau

This is a great article. I really enjoy your points on OCD… it’s a big problem with some of my own projects. You tend to focus too much on perfection when in reality the design needs to just work!

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