The Primacy of Shipping

To my fellow product designers, you will be judged by what you ship. Shipping is everything and the only thing.

Great designers tend to understand this and do whatever they can to ship more. This includes making themselves instrumental in high priority projects that solve critical business problems that have dedicated engineering and PM resources. But in addition to working on normal product roadmap projects, great designers find extremely scrappy ways to get work out the door. They might:

  • Build it themselves
  • Persuade one or more engineers to squeeze in the project
  • Recruit external engineering help
  • Pull user data themselves to explain the problem and get buy-in
  • Prove the project’s impact via user research or A/B testing
  • Push the project up the roadmap by getting product managers, engineers, and stakeholders invested in the opportunities it affords

Also, great designers don’t stop with shipping. They ensure what they did moves the business forward. If the numbers don’t move in the right direction, then they iterate to find a better solution.

Less effective designers will:

  • Wait around for a PM to give them a project
  • Wait for a PM to write a product requirements document
  • Never learn enough code to be scrappy
  • Fiddle in Sketch or Framer aimlessly
  • Let themselves be blocked
  • Let themselves work on low priority, low impact projects
  • Add designs, bugs, and projects to the engineering backlog or product roadmap backlog and then forget about them
  • Very rarely ship

Shipping your designs to production means:

“Production code is a surrogate for decision-making power…Production code is the source of truth. It is the real-time sum total of all the conversations, all the decisions, all the politics… it is everything. Whoever is pushing code to production is running the product, everyone else only has influence.” 
– Rebecca Cox, former Director of Design at Quora

Effort doesn’t matter. How late you stay in the office doesn’t matter. Only results matter.