Doing It Right
I’ve been spending a lot of time getting things right. Like, really right. One thing about working on giant design systems is that every minor shortcut, every assumption, every “that should probably do it” gets blown to smithereens in the face of reality.
It’s incredible how much work goes into doing things right vs doing things to get them done. So many seemingly tiny, inconsequential decisions actually have huge ramifications.
So much of our work building design systems involves holding these tiny things up to the light.
— Brad Frost (@brad_frost) December 6, 2019
It’s a lot of hard work to sweat the details, and to make that accordion (or whatever) not just work for this page, that page, or even just one or two products, but to make one that works anywhere and everywhere for everyone. To make one that’s flexible, accessible, performant, resilient, intuitive, and extensible. It’s a tall order, and to top it off you need to have a well-considered rationale for each and every decision that was made.
Doing it right requires a different pace of working and a much broader thought process than “ok, let’s get this thing out the door.” Which is super tough because most workplaces place a huge emphasis on getting things out the door, and fast. Little agile tickets that are expected to be completed in micro sprints to me seem to be antithetical to doing it right.
It’s a careful balancing act though, since doing it right can lead to paralysis. It can be easy to spend countless hours pouring over hypothetical edge cases in an effort to get things perfect. But at some point in time you have to make decisions and roll with them. Thankfully, embracing iteration as a fact of doing digital work is a critical piece of this equation. It’s heartening to know that even if you didn’t do things exactly right the first (or second or third) time, there’s always the opportunity to try again.
Another thing I’ve been thinking about is how privileged I am to be doing it right. Not everyone gets to work this way. I used to not work this way. I worked for companies that valued quantity over quality. I used to work for companies that the owner of the company hung up on a client the day after we launched their site because “we already got their money”. Just crank out the work as fast as you can.
A lot of workplaces don’t value doing it right. They might say they do, but their actions say otherwise. And I realize not everyone is in a position to simply leave their job to go work for a place that values doing things right. But if you’re in a spot like that, don’t give up hope. You know how much better things can be if you did them right, and there are overt or even covert ways of making the right thing happen. And in the meantime keep your eyes peeled for a better gig that values doing it right.
Making things in December
This is part of my making something every day in December series. Here’s the timeline so far:
- Day 1: recorded new song
- Day 2: wrote blog post called Music and Web Design
- Day 3: assembled a jeweler’s bench and recorded a Chaka Khan song
- Day 4: animated atom SVG
- Day 5: jamming with Ian
- Day 6: wrote blog post called Doing It Right