Pick a Lane

Please tell me the drawbacks of your great idea

When people tell me they love taking the time to get it right, I mentally calculate in my head “high quality work, but has trouble hitting deadlines.” If they say the reverse, something about how “done is the engine of more,” I think “fond of MVP releases, might not be as good at polish, user delight, and long term brand strategy.” Both are perfectly valid approaches. The problem is when you refuse to believe there’s a tradeoff to make at all.

Here’s an example I see often: when design teams say that reusing components in a design language is important for UX consistency, I agree. Strongly. That’s my default design philosophy and it’d take a unique client, product, or scenario for me to not default to it. But componentized work, for all the benefit, has downsides as well. Some feature ideas just aren’t possible with standard components. Meaning new work often takes much longer, with lower morale, because teams have to wait for the design system team to bless a new interaction model, or for the platform to provide it.

But there’s no magical way to pursue an approach with no drawbacks. It’s helpful if teams don’t just use the happy words (consistent, user-focused, delightful, simple, clean, fast, awesome) but factored in the scary words too. For example, instead of “Quality first,” it should be “We’re comfortable shipping <x> months late in order to make sure the feature is as good as possible.” Don’t say “MVP” if you’re not willing to say “We’re ok with a product that could negatively affect our brand because we think the lessons we learn will be worth it.”

Pick a lane. Don’t tell me how great it’s going to be, tell me what you’re willing to make less great in order to get there. That’s where the real conversations happen. It’s good to have them often.