As a creative agency, we often find ourselves in a headlock searching for perfection. But I recently learned a new phrase and it got me thinking about how progress is better than perfection.
‘Second best tomorrow’
If like me, you aren’t familiar with the phrase, it’s the philosophy that arguably led to Britain winning World War II. Sir Robert Watson-Watt was a pioneer, not only for the development of radar but for his way of setting development deadlines and always delivering. Second best tomorrow was his motto.
Watson-Watt said, “Give me the third best technology. The second best won’t be ready. The best will never be ready.” He knew that product development was inherently iterative. Do a little, get it better. Do a little more, get it better yet.
As Watson-Watt and his team were iteratively developing the radar under operational research, the Germans were taking time to reach perfection. That perfection took them four years and in the mean time, Britain won the war. Thanks no doubt to radar, the secret weapon.
How does this relate to web design?
Whether we’re creating a marketing strategy, a new web design or crafting a brand ‘second best tomorrow’ could be an advantageous strategy. Deliver on time, on budget and get something out that has room to be improved upon based on real-world feedback.
We can continue to strive for perfection, beat ourselves up along the way and wonder whether or not you’re done or whether it’s good enough. The producer will almost never be satisfied with their final piece. There’s always one thing to tweak, something to add or do differently. (This perception is probably ours and ours alone, not one shared by our clients).
We always say that a web design is never finished and maybe it’s time to heed our own mantra. Just because we press the big red button and ‘go live’ it doesn’t mean the work stops there. To get to the stage of going live, how do you know when you’re done? When is the deliverable ready to go? (I’m using a web design in this analogy but it could be applied to a brand, marketing strategy or even designing a radar).
How to manage web design with a ‘second best tomorrow’ approach?
First, make a plan. Not a rival to War and Peace but a succinct, clear plan. We tend to plan websites in about half a day going over the brand, key message, what we want users to do, see and remember on the website. We spend a little time doing research and then plan the hierarchy to form the ux journey experience.
From here, we prototype. We develop conceptual ideas, usually three to five concepts make it to the drawing board and these are then sketched up into wireframes. We often show clients the sketches and wireframes, this is an important iteration as it allows us to discuss something we might have missed or tweak the hierarchy to be more appropriate.
Now that we have our conceptual direction agreed and the all-important wireframe, we can open the ‘paintbox’ and start designing. This is important as the web designer doesn’t need to think about concepts, hierarchy and can spent this time crafting a design that fits the brief, the plan and just prototype away. Again, we don’t spend hours perfecting the initial screen design, it’s sent for another round of iteration.
We call these sprints. Sitting down to define a block of work we want to deliver, set a sprint with a defined team and timeframe, review and then iterate. Wash, rinse, repeat. It’s a really useful strategy and allows a large amount of work to be broken down, create a high level of focus and productivity and then work to get it better.
After content collation, web design, web build, we get to a certain point where we’re ready to go live. Go live. It sounds so definitive doesn’t it? Well it’s not the end point, it’s really the beginning. But how do you know when you’re ready to go live? How do you know when you’re done?
You could ask some questions, such as…
- Is it a solution to the problem you were trying to solve in the first place?
- Does it communicate the message you need it to?
- Is it better than it was before?
- Is it on brand?
- Have you kicked the tyres? (Technical term for cross browser testing)
- Have you dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s?
If yes to all the above, then you’re ready to go live.
We do have a website launch checklist free to download if you are at that stage and want a full guide and set of check lists, get it here.
UX testing and development
During the design phase, we make certain assumptions about our target audiences and design. It’s really key to test your marketing strategy or website design in the real world. With web design, it’s easier to do than you think. You also don’t need a huge budget to recruit focus groups, hire equipment, venues and carry out UX testing workshops (although, we do this for clients and it’s incredible observing the users in sessions in real time and over the years we’ve learned a lot).
Monitor, review, improve
With any website you can install Google analytics and see the traffic flow of users and where they click and so on. There’s also software available that can record your user sessions, it provides heat maps and mouse tracking to see where they’re clicking. Observing this can help you to identify any usability bugs that you can fix iteratively and keep improving. Continuous improvement is the name of the game.
As designers and as marketers always looking for perfection, we need to remind ourselves that sometimes okay is actually okay. It’s better to get a job done on time, on budget and give yourself room for improvement than try to deliver perfection. That’s futile.