Ricky Onsman, Smashing Magazine, 5 February 2018
The beginning of a new year seems like a perfect time to think about what we web professionals do, why we do it, how we could do it better and even how we could have more fun doing it.
Like everyone, we learn lessons as we make our way through life and work. If we’re lucky, we pick up some good advice along the way, so we thought it might be useful to find out what kind of advice you all have found to be particularly valuable.
Never overpromise. Always overdeliver by a bit. Accept critique first, think process it later. Never kill an idea in a meeting. What was some of the most useful and wise advice you’ve received over all these years?
The responses we’ve received so far have organized themselves into several thematic groups (with some overlaps). Some advice focused exclusively on web work, some on work in general, and some on life in general.
The largest group of respondents focused on advice related to work process, quality, and outcomes, with an emphasis on pragmatism and getting things done. The strongest thread of advice in this group of comments acknowledged that if you keep working on something until it’s “perfect,” it’ll most likely never get done.
This is particularly relevant for our industry because, to a greater or lesser extent, web professionals must often work in a self-directed way. Sure, we have deadlines, and KPIs, and benchmarks to meet, but the overall imperative is that the result must be good — usable, effective, aesthetically pleasing — and often we are the ones who have to say when something is “ready.”
The reality is that, notwithstanding user testing, we don’t really find out if something’s ready until it’s being used in the wild. So, make it good, get it out there, and then make it better based on user feedback.
Let’s see what the community came up with.
|“Functional and ugly is always better than beautiful and broken.”
|“Make it work, then make it better.”
|“Don’t expect to always get it right the first time.”
|“The method is not the goal, i.e. you can choose the best or any method to achieve a goal.”
|“Trust the process. Things, whether personal, business, or creative will unfold and come to a conclusion bc nothing stands till. Don’t force it and trust that process will inform and answer the questions that remain.”
|“Conversely, don’t rely on a process that doesn’t exist. Some organizations NEED to be pushed forward, it’s specifically why they hire outside vendors. If they tell you that, believe them.”
|“I agree with both of you. You need to trust the process and that process needs to exist.“
|Sara Noronha Ramos
|“Don’t believe in luck, believe in hard work, you’re not a lottery ticket”, “do something unique so you can avoid competition”, “have a definite plan”…
|Javier E. Trevino
|“Done Is Better Than Perfect.”
|“First do it, then do it right, then do it better.”
|“First idea is always the one you should compare others to. You should not use it.”
|“What got you here, won’t get you there.”
|“Don’t worry, be crappy”. If you are a high achiever, anxiety over being good enough is your enemy — not underperforming.
|“Perfect is the enemy of good enough” — I try to always ship early and often citing this quote as the reason for that.”
|“Iterate, iterate, and reiterate!”
|“Ask three before me” to get people to think things through properly before asking much higher up the chain.
|“Chip away at it.” A lot of times projects seem daunting and overwhelming. Take a small bit and work on that first.
|“You can’t fix something that isn’t there” for when I got stuck staring a blank page waiting for a good design to appear.
Another popular work-related theme was advice about having confidence in your skills and making sure you receive reasonable remuneration for applying those skills.
While this applies to people in lots of different lines of work, it takes on a particular context in the web industry. Formal training and education are increasing, but many working web professionals rely on skills acquired “on the job” plus whatever videos and books they could get hold of.
In truth, skills acquired this way are no less than those gained from formal training. The proof lies in what you create.
What’s more, many people outside the industry still have this weird belief that web design and development is something that anyone could do. Consequently, web professionals may encounter situations where they are asked to work for low or no pay. Even now, those of us who have NOT been asked to work for nothing more than “the exposure” are few and far between.
Here’s what our readers suggested.
|“Don’t do it for the money, but don’t do it for no money.”
|“Don’t let the client tell you how you need to do your work. They need your expertise, use it!!! You wouldn’t ask Dalí for a realistic portrait.”
|Sergio R. Caballero
|“Client doesn’t know what he wants, you have to learn about what client needs and write the specification yourself. Write everything down and do only what is in the contract, because the client will change his mind and will ask for changes. Changes take work, bill for changes!”
|“When quoting, double how long you think it will take, and then add 20%, then another 50% if they seem like jerks.”
|“Push yourself more than you think you can handle, you’d be surprised how much you’re capable of.” Though this can be a recipe for burnout, this person’s words changed how I approach new projects and tasks and ideas, and I’ve learned so much from it.
|“Learn to say no. Probably the advice that helped me the most.”
There was some very good advice about how we think and feel about our work.
Some advice focused on undertaking work that you genuinely care about. That’s not always easy, in which case the two options are to learn to care about it or to get out and find something else you do care about.
When you do care about what you do, it becomes easier to reflect on how well you’re doing and what you need to do to do better.
Here’s some of the advice offered by our readers.
|“Care… Because if you don’t, nothing will happen.”
|“Be authentic, ALWAYS do what you say you are going to do.”
|“Don’t stress over the things you can’t control.”
|“Don’t be so angry.”
|“You’re not a tree: If you don’t like where/who you are, MOVE!”
|Francesco La Macchia
|“Only get in niches you care about.“
|“It’s just as important to know what NOT to do, as it is to know what TO do.”
|“Get to know the context and empathize with the person before judging their acts, behavior and results.”
|“There are no dumb questions. It’s just dumb not to ask.”
Some advice was quite generic in nature and widely applicable to work and life in general — and all the more useful for that. What these comments have in common is the awareness that life is not lived in a vacuum, and work is not the be-all and end-all.
Every person has the right to self-determination, which comes with the responsibility to put some thought into what you’re doing and make decisions that will not only support your ambitions but give you a lifestyle that is healthy and happy.
Here are some examples from the community.
|“Sometimes you have to close a door before a new one will open.”
|“Never Stop Learning”
|“Your family is just as important as the work. Go home. The work will always be there when you return.”
|“Time is yours. You have time and you choose how to spend it. Choose wisely and respect your own choices, even when taking time for yourself. One needs time for him/herself.”
|After accidentally missing curfew, my Dad said to me, “Son, there really are no accidents.” That has stayed with me… There’s failure to plan, failure to predict, failure to adapt, but very little of life’s mistakes are truly “accidents”. Talk about driving excellence!
Our last group of responses is a grab bag of advice that may be more or less applicable to you, depending on your circumstances.
Yes, some of these are meant to be light-hearted (although some hint at rather dark personal experiences), but even joke responses can have nuggets of truth hidden in them.
By and large, this group of advice is about protecting yourself and avoiding negative restrictions.
See if you think this is good advice.
|“Listen rarely to an engineer making decisions regarding marketing or graphic design.”
|Craig Rubia Design
|“Unplug all electric appliances when leaving home for more than a day.”
|“Never take advice from strangers.”
|“Don’t give project feedback on a Friday afternoon.”
|“The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” — Orson Welles
And there you have it. Quite a diverse set of comments, yet with some clear through lines and areas of common focus. Hopefully, there are a few nuggets of wisdom in that lot that strike a chord with you.
I’m going to leave you with a piece of advice about advice, attributed to Oscar Wilde:
The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself.
And on that note, if you feel inspired to add some advice you’ve received that has been powerful for you, please feel free to add them in the comments below, or jump on the Twitter or Facebook threads.