I’m somewhere between a perfectionist and obsessive: I can tell you when my couch is is an inch off center and hate it when a webpage lacks equal white-space. Most people involved in product share this attribute, it’s what lets us push forward past what others have done and succeed, but if there’s one mistake I see companies from startups to SMBs to fortune level brands making time and time again it’s not knowing how to get over it.
Repeat after me: I will never be right the first time.
No matter how much you think something through, no matter how many opinions you ask or how many hours of tweaking go into nailing down your campaign, you will be wrong the first time. You might get close, even closer, but even then you’re going to learn things you never even considered in minutes / hours / days of launching whatever it is you’re working on. Because you are not your customer and you are blind to what they see.
Simply put the best launch is not the final launch and every time you think otherwise you will prove yourself wrong.
A very real-life example from my own world.
I’ll spare my past employers and clients from any dirt here and instead illustrate this through a story I know best: my own. We started on giftery.me last summer hiring a designer who turned out a few solid comps that we then spent months building, rebuilding and tweaking down. We fretted over features, cleaned up details, tweaked the pixels just so. It wasn’t perfect but by the time we released we had spent a lot of time perfecting… What we learned was that (1) people liked the idea [yay!] and (2) they didn’t like our execution of it. At all. We had optimized before we know what to optimize.
Now 9 months later I can tell you the site’s still not perfect; I can list out things we’ve got to fix and of course what we want to build next. But for every change we make we learn one or two or even ten more important things that our users care about… the things that drive the big results have to come before you fine tune the little ones.
Your bar and the customer’s expectation are not in line.
When you set the bar at perfection what you’re really doing is stop yourself from testing. After all the closer you think something is to perfect the less willing you are to challenge it, the less flaws you consider or questions you ask. And the more people who participate in building perfection the worse this becomes as you’ve all “hung your hat” on this being the right bet. It’s not easy to bet against yourself.
This is not to say you should launch with just anything…
To be perfectly clear I’m not suggesting throwing quality to the way side, not by a long shot. This is especially true for startups who hear “lean” and “minimal” product and equate that to “basic”, the words are not synonyms. There’s a not-so-blurry line between perfection and a damn good job and today’s customer has far too many options not to do that damn good job at every stage.
But a damn good job and perfect are a very clear line apart and what you need to remember instead is that the quest for perfection is about winning the end of the funnel. When you first build something you need to focus on the top… the big wins, the entire vision. Find out if it works then make it look and read perfect.