Today I’m launching Shuffleboard, a new collaboration tool for real-time remote discussions. Think of it like a 10x simpler virtual whiteboard (or Jackbox for work meetings).
⭐️ 💃 ➡️ Shuffleboard is on Product Hunt today ⬅️ 🕺⭐️
Shuffleboard is a solo SaaS project: I built it a day or two at a time over the last year and a half. Now the app is live, and real companies rely on Shuffleboard for running meetings, workshops, and retrospectives. This month I crossed a new milestone: people I don’t know have been converting to paying customers.
“What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.” — Mark Twain
In the fable of the blind men and the elephant, blind men touch different parts of an elephant and argue over what it really looks like. Some touch the trunk, some touch the tail, and some touch the ears. Naturally, they all describe the elephant differently. They’re all correct, in their own limited way — but none of them really understands what an elephant actually is.
I love starting new projects. There’s something so thrilling and about an empty canvas. “This design is going to be amazing,” I always think before I start.
Cut to two weeks later, and I’m banging my head against my desk.
That’s how I used to feel at least. I still get stuck sometimes, but I don’t stay stuck for long. As you grow as a designer, you learn ways to get yourself back on track.
Here’s an incomplete list of ways I untangle myself from hairy design problems:
Books are a surprisingly good way to learn about design.
I say “surprisingly” because it’s easy to assume digital design is best learned with digital tools. But I always seem to learn the fundamentals best when reading paper books.
These are the books I recommend to designers — to my students, clients, coworkers, and friends. With a few exceptions noted below, I’ve actually read all of these books (no Tufte), and I think they each have something important to say to new designers.
How do you spot a great future designer?
Look for people with skills that are hard to teach. In my product design classes, the hardest thing to teach has been this:
The ability to quickly evaluate a design, generate slightly-better solutions, and stay fully engaged in this loop long enough to get a remarkable result.
This is important because in design, the battle is won or lost over countless small details. They all have to be right, and they all have to fit together.
There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s break it down.
To quickly evaluate design, you…
The secrets to getting [what you want] are having done the homework to know you’re asking for the right thing, the confidence to ask for it, and the willingness to walk away when you can’t get it. — Mike Monteiro, Design is a Job
I know what it’s like to feel “stuck”.
In 2012, I was living in Portland, OR, working as a web developer. My life was easy and fun, but I was starting to get bored.
I knew I wanted to stop writing code and work as a designer, I had an itch to be in a more…