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November 25, 2020

How I Learnt to Stop Perfecting Prototypes

I was recently pairing with a UX designer at nib, and I was blown away by how quickly he threw a concept together. I was witnessing an experienced, talented designer, explore an interface design by quickly drawing some rectangles on the screen and calling it a day.


If I were in his shoes, I would have spent hours perfecting the design. Tweaking saturation, adjusting border radii, and lining up pixels. I would have hidden myself somewhere quiet, thrown on my best playlist, and toiled away until the result was breathtaking.

The reality, however, is that his quick sketches where enough to communicate the problem and the solution. He didn't need to spend hours perfecting his concept, because it was exactly that—a concept. He also managed to get feedback much sooner in the creative cycle. Five minutes with some shape and text tools and he was ready to hear and incorporate some opinions.

Another factor to consider here, is that feedback always rocks the boat. If you spend hours on a design, and someone comes in with a better suggestion, you better believe those hours were all for nothing.

According to the Pareto principle, the first 20% of the work we do is enough to produce 80% of the value. Often times, especially when working with concepts and prototypes, this is more than enough! Beyond this point we enter the domain of diminishing returns. Beyond this point, the only person that benefits from your hard work on a prototype is you.

So ask yourself: is it worth chasing perfection? I say: focus on communicating ideas instead of perfection. When we do we move faster, achieve more, and prevent ourselves from investing many hours into an idea that's going nowhere.

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