Build it wrong first

Continuing on the theme from yesterday’s Shovel By Shovel post, I took 30 minutes today to do a tiny bit of work on a product idea that I don’t quite have time for yet.

One of the barriers for me in working on this project is that I’m pretty slow at front end web development. I know what good UX looks like, and given enough time and elbow grease I can produce fairly comfortable products (even if they’re on the plain side). But it takes me forever to get things right and so it’s one of those things that is easy to turn into an excuse to put things off indefinitely.

Anyway, somewhere along the way I’ve discovered that the antidote to that procrastination trap is to do things wrong on purpose. I don’t mean “A less polished version of what will become your final design” but instead “cutting every corner so that it’s obvious you’re taking an extreme and temporary shortcut.”

In the context of my new product idea (which is essentially a routine tracking tool), the thing that was hanging me up was that in order to build a nice way of managing recurring daily/weekly activities, I’d have to write up a fairly complex form. I’d probably want to be smart about choosing which fields to reveal so that only the relevant ones were shown depending on what options you had selected, and so on, and so on.

Sometimes even the thought of doing a bunch of basic Rails CRUD work leaves me feeling exhausted, so the idea of doing much more than that was holding me up.

That’s when I threw my hands up in the air and said… to hell with it, let’s just jam some CSV data into a single text field:

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 5.10.40 PM

Now my entire “plan” is editable in one spot, without any fancy form features. Would I subject even a single customer or beta tester to this UI? Hell no!

Will it make it more likely that I’ll keep testing the tool myself while I build out some of its other features? Hell yes. And it turned a day long effort into a 30 minute effort.

I feel like I should write more about this kind of thing. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in best practices and trying to make ourselves look good in public that we forget that there can sometimes be significant benefits in doing certain things wrong, so that you can then focus on other problems that matter more at that particular moment.

For me right now, the problem that matters most is just staying engaged with this product idea… anything that’ll keep me stirring the pot is good. I can clean up the kitchen later!

If you have questions or thoughts to share, open an issue in my “Ask Me Anything” repository on Github, or email gregory@practicingdeveloper.com.