“Perfectionism is the enemy of progress”. This is a quote I’ve found to be very true throughout my life. Whenever I hear it or read it, I remember to stop trying to do everything perfectly and focus on getting things done once they are good enough. Once I start focusing on good enough, my to do list shortens, I’m meeting deadlines, and generally feeling like I’m getting somewhere again. So when I see clients doing the same thing I try to encourage them to focus on progress rather than perfection.
Clients come to us when they’re working on a new redesign or project that they are hoping to release soon. They want to get it user tested before it goes live. We schedule it in, recruit the test participants, and book the studio. Then we get a phonecall asking us to postpone everything for a week or two. We agree, then in two weeks we get another call to postpone. The website, app, or software release isn’t ready yet. Why? They are still ironing things out and it’s not quite ready yet.
This is an all too common scenario and it’s understandable that clients want their project to be perfect before unveiling it. After all, they want people to be wowed by what they’ve been working on not start nit-picking over the negatives they know aren’t quite finished. So here’s the truth you don’t want to hear: this is an unrealistic way of working and will only result in unnecessary delays. Why? Because your project will never be 100% perfect; there will always be something else that needs fixing or reworking and at these early stages of development you need to stop getting bogged down in the detail and focus on the bigger picture.
Waiting for things to be perfect sets everything up for a one off usability test which tries to answer everything and ultimately comes as unwanted negative feedback. Instead, try to think of usability testing in terms of helping you to prioritise your to-do list. Stop thinking of a usability test as a one off event, and instead as an ongoing tool to help you isolate and fix issues earlier in the lifecycle. You’ll soon find that it takes less time and energy to fix issues earlier on than it is nearer project launch
By thinking about the project as something that is never perfect, never finished, you’ll come to appreciate that getting user feedback as early as possible in the process helps you to isolate the things that really matter. You can then de-prioritise some of the features and enhancements that matter less to users, and instead focus on getting the user journeys and features right that really do impact on user experience. Quite often when we’ve worked with a client earlier in the lifecycle we’ve helped them to remove features and functionality from the project scope which would have taken up valuable design and development resource.
So, stop for a minute and ask yourself – Am I striving for perfection over progress? Would user feedback right now be useful even if some of the feedback highlights areas I already know about? Would it be useful to have evidence to help me prioritise to my action plan?
If you’d like to hear more, or chat to us about how you can incorporate user feedback into your project, get in touch. We’re happy to give you some free no-obligation advice.
Damian is our Founder & Director who has 16 years experience in UX working for companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services researching & designing websites, apps, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. With two kids under two he spends his rare free time catching up on lost sleep or immersed in his xbox.