Stop designing perfectly

Too often in design, we get caught up with the idea that a design has to be (or even can be) perfect.

With this mindset, we strive, we push ourselves to create the best possible interface for our users. We work hard to achieve that perfect interface.

But are we going about this all wrong?

I think we are.

School marks

Marks in highschool are a funny thing. All through elementary school, we’re taught that a mark of A is the ultimate standard to achieve. In our minds it’s 100%, because we can’t go any higher.

However, what we see in highschool is actually quite different.

When we arrive at highschool we learn that an A is actually part of a range of percentages. Getting an A could mean anything from 80% to 100%.

If our “ultimate standard” is no longer represented by a mark of 100%, we realize that our ultimate standard is actually easier to achieve.

The standard shifts

This shifting standard, where 80% to 100% is our top game, is a really good thing for us.

It lets us reevaluate what it means to achieve the top of our game, and remove the expectation of perfection.

Let’s look at design through this lens. How can our designs benefit from us using a range of “marks” to judge our work, instead of just 100%?

Design isn’t perfect

Design doesn’t have to be perfect. The high standard that we want to achieve is possible without toiling forever to create that mythical 100% design.

A design that looks 80% right still gets an A.

This can benefit us greatly:

  • We stop spending too much time designing things;
  • Our newfound time can be used talking with customers to find out what they think;
  • This feedback can be used to improve the design the way customers want it to be improved.

The time we’d have spent delaying our product’s launch to get a perfect design is much better spent.

Design isn’t perfect. Don’t try to make it be. You’ll still get an A without getting 100%.

Keep highschool marks in mind as you go forth to design the next “best”-looking product. Don’t try and be perfect right off the bat, give it time. An 80% is still an A.

I look forward to seeing all your imperfect designs.

Note: This article was inspired by an article by Arley McBlain, where he mentioned that you can write less code and still have an element that looks 85% great. His stuff rocks, go read it.

John Fish, a good friend of mine, wrote up a response to this piece. His take is interesting, though I’d like to point out that I never said making mistakes was okay. Go check it out, it provides a good differing perspective to this issue.

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