How to Temper your Perfectionism

The Three Buckets of UX Fucks


Greg Nudelman

3 years ago | 3 min read

Perfectionism is like a fine sword — you need to temper it if it’s to be of any use in your UX work. Or, to put it in the fine words of Mark Manson (the author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck): “give too many fucks about everything, and you’re the one who’s going to get fucked.”

This installment is on deciding how many UX fucks to give or how perfectionist you want to be about your particular aspect of the design project to maximize your impact in the world. Rather than being a rigid on/off kind of thing, I think of the number of UX fucks as more of a continuum, falling roughly in three buckets below, Perfect, Keep Consistent, and Don’t Bother:

The Three Buckets of UX Fucks

The diagram above is more of a big-picture statement; your mileage may vary significantly. However, over my 21-year career, I noticed similarities in every endeavor where UX played a vital part in shipping successful products:

1) Perfect: Keep the “Perfect” bucket as small as possible. Be ruthless. Remember that the original 2007 iPhone did not even have a copy and paste, and the initial release of mobile Facebook had just a handful of features. Spend the bulk of your limited budget of UX fucks on strategic projects:

  • Reference applications, such as Gmail. These reflect the zeitgeist of the entire platform and should be designed to be emulated, so give all possible UX fucks you can.
  • Reference features that define critical aspects of the application, e.g., navigation, information architecture, fundamental interaction design principles, etc.
  • Customer acquisition strategy, including try-and-buy, installation, and new user experience
  • Product-driven growth strategy (e.g., how additional features are promoted in the product)
  • Mission-critical features that differentiate you from your competition in the eyes of existing and potential customers
  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Strategy
  • 5G Strategy, if that applies to you
  • Various Presentations for ELT/Investors, etc. — these will incidentally help you sharpen your strategy focus and spur your inventiveness
  • Patentable UI stuff — design patents are often easier to get, especially for strategic tech (more on this later). Take full advantage of this.

If you are working on any of these (you lucky dog, you!) — perfect away. Just remember to keep checking with your teammates and existing and potential customers.

2) Keep Consistent: Build a competent and robust Design System working closely with Developers and PMs. Then use it (a great deal more on this subject later.) If something happens more than once (or even seems like it would), add it to the Design System. Then don’t try to re-invent the wheel. At any point, 80% of the design patterns should be in your DSM, so you don’t have to continually re-invent simple stuff like routine table views, CRUD, bulk actions, how search filters and results look, etc. Clearly, exceptions apply. For example, if you are Google or Amazon, search is mission-critical and deserves to be at the top of the first bucket.

3) Don’t Bother: This is a black pit into which countless hours have already been sunk and more undoubtedly will disappear in the future. Here are some tips on escaping misery:

  • Don’t work on something if your Manager asked you to stop
  • Stop if your Team is asking you to “cease and desist” and just use the standard Design System pattern already
  • Stop if doing the thing will prevent you from doing high-value critical work your team or your customers depend on
  • Stop if it’s already built and the ship has sailed
  • Don’t bother if the thing will be irrelevant in less than three months because of a change of strategy, acquisition, etc.
  • Stop if less than one percent of users care about the thing you’re stressing over.

Stopping perfectionizing cold turkey is hard, especially if it’s already a habit. Do it to the extent you can by focusing on what’s most important (the first bucket), and let the rest take care of itself. To paraphrase Ekhart Tolle in The Power of Now — the more you can stop stressing over the meaningless issues and things you can’t control, the happier, more peaceful, and more fulfilled you will be.

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Created by

Greg Nudelman







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