☰ Chasing perfection.

If I should define one thing I learned in the past couple of months, it is to declare something as finished. Here is why I think of this as a crucial ability.

One problem with all those stories about Apple and how Apple sweats every tiny detail of every app, product and website ever delivered is that some misconceptions of reality are stuck in our heads. Of course it’s important to think about details, to change things dozens of times, to test, to discard, to start again. Iteration helps, it helps getting a feeling for what you are working on. You have to see the alternatives to dismiss them. Sometimes you have to scribble something you know won’t work, just so you have seen that it doesn’t work — and sometimes, while doing that, you get a new, even better idea.

I’ve noticed that I’m running the risk to get lost in details for example in the twentieth iteration of a button on a profile page. It’s not easy to keep looking at the bigger picture, to define something as not as important as something else, when you try to achive a workflow like those stories about Apple taught us.

It’s not like I’ve thought like this five months ago, but somewhen in the meantime I learned that we would not be able to finish the work on the QUOTE.fm iPad app if we try to build something entirely perfect.

The problem lies within the fact that we’re all learning something new every day. For my part my taste changes nearly weekly. I discover flaws in things I found flawless before. It’s not like we’re not trying to achieve the best possible result, but if you don’t stop improving at some point, you’ll never ship a product. And if you don’t ship the product you’ll never know if it’s actually something that fits into the life of others.

I’ve designed the QUOTE.fm iPad app, changed it a few times and decided it’s nice as it is. Then I began to work on the QUOTE.fm iPhone app and found better solutions for problems I’ve already solved in another way on the iPad. Sometimes I changed it in the iPad app afterwards, but if I’d do that every time, there wouldn’t be an iPad app anytime soon. If ever.

That said, I’m looking forward to sending out the first beta to our testers this week. It’s the first version of an app we’ve worked on for the last months. It’s not going to be perfect. We’re planning to update the apps as often as we update the site and we’re going to let you know what’s planned and how decisions are made.

Don’t chase absolute perfection, chase the right amount of perfection for the moment at hand.

Feel free to correct any grammar and spelling mistakes in the comments. Thank you.


  1. One of the differences between you and Apple is that Apple has of course slightly more people who work on making things as good as possible. Large companies have just more stuff than small startups – more designers, engineers, money, a better infrastructure. That said, you deliver amazing products for a small startup.

  2. Noah: I don’t think so. True is that one forgets about first versions. Nothing Apple ever released was perfect right from the beginning. Updating does the trick.

  3. Great words about an uneasy topic! Just realized it myself in my current project that the own level of perfection has to be downgraded to that specific point between my own confidence of shipping it to somebody else and on the other side showing a product that can be used in its current state of development (and impress the user with little things that are just great).

    Sure, a product will never finished (and I love that part when you’ve seen improvements switching between both worlds [iPhone/iPad]) and from my point of view thats a good thing to keep the improving process and reflexing of my own work alive.

    I’m looking forward to the release of the iPad app 😉

  4. Thank you. This is indeed an inspiring piece. It turns out that ‘chasing perfection’ seems to be a common problem since I made the same experiences by working on an UI. Your text is both a very helpful contemplation and advice.

  5. It’s a crucial ability, not an. Also, “somewhen” is not a good word in this context (or ever really.) =)

  6. Strive for excellence, not perfection. Ich kenne das zu gut, allerdings muss ich sagen, dass mich ein Thema sehr schnell langweilt. Irgendwann habe ich einfach keine Lust mehr darauf, etwas zu Perfektion zu bringen, weil es mich davon abhält, tausend andere Dinge zu tun, die mindestens genau so gut sind.