Your First Idea Is Your Worst Idea

sketching startup website ideas on paper

A really smart guy whom I respect told me once that he operates on the assumption that his first idea is always his worst idea. You have to keep pushing yourself to get to a really solid solution and often times our first idea does only a shallow job at solving the problem in question.

This statement made a LOT of sense to me. When I looked back on my past ideas/projects that really proved to hold out and stand up to scrutiny, it was usually my 3rd or 4th or 5th version. I have found this to be true not only for development but for so many other areas of life as well (parenting, home schooling, painting, renovation projects… I could go on an on).

FiWi All the Things!

This past year I’ve been consciously making an effort to really embrace this principle (the idea that your First Idea is your Worst Idea – let’s say FiWi for short) in all areas of my life. It’s been really interesting to see how many times I can come up with a better solution when I assume that I haven’t found it yet. Like when I’m sketching for a project; there is a HUGE difference in the third or fourth sketch from what the first sketch looked like. Even in my personal life… I have a kitchen renovation project coming up and so far I’m on my 6th version. It’s by far a much better design than my first idea. Which is so encouraging and exciting.

Being Wrong Can Feel So Right

There are times when I forget this truth (FiWi). Sometimes I have gotten ‘stuck’ on my first idea. In the moment I think: ‘This idea is amazing. If you don’t think so, let me explain it again because I don’t think you are really seeing the value of this treasure I am setting before you.’ Sometimes, this notion is legitimate in that I have done a poor job at communicating my thoughts and I need to tease it out more. More often than not in these situations, I’m just too emotionally attached to the idea. It’s my baby and of course it’s amazing. The thing that stinks about being wrong is that it feels exactly the same as being right. Your own perception tells you ‘Dude, this is golden idea!’ when in fact it may be closer to bronze or even plywood. The way good ideas are distinguished from bad ones is through criticism and questioning. There’s no way around it.

Tips for Keeping FiWi Alive

To help me keep FiWi in mind as I’m iterating, I have a list of questions I ask myself. The hope being that I safe guard against thinking I’ve reached the ‘pinnacle’ of ideas too soon.

  • How many solutions have I come up with yet? (I shoot for a minimum of 3 – no exceptions)
  • Am I assuming that there isn’t a better way?
  • Have I gotten good criticism from someone I trust to give it?
  • Does this meet the main goal and is it in line with strategy?

You might think that forcing yourself to think this way would feel burdensome, but in fact it’s really freeing. Knowing that my first idea is more than likely going to be trashed frees me up to just get the idea out of my head. It doesn’t have to be perfect. In turn, this acts like a lubricant for my creative process – getting started can really be so difficult. Coming up with idea #2 usually isn’t near as difficult as it was coming up with idea #1, and so forth. Usually it’s not until idea #4 where it gets a little harder, which is why I shoot for 3 ideas every time.

So, have to FiWi’d today?

P.S. My first version of this blog post was way worse than this one.

What I Hate About Front End Development

Things I hate about front end development

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE what I do. But like with anything, there are downsides. Here are some from the top of my head:

[Rather than call this post the ‘things I hate’ I would prefer ‘the things I find challenging’, but that doesn’t have as much impact for a title.]

  1. Browser QA – That’s right. I find this aspect of my job very tedious. And sometimes the distinctions between the way browsers interpret how to render code seems completely arbitrary. It’s like this whole internet thing is the wild west (which it is). 😉
  2. Project Management – I used to do project management for multiple teams so I know how challenging this is. As a front-end developer project management is no longer my main role, but it is part of my responsibilities. I have to manage myself constantly by breaking down my projects into bite sized features and estimating how long each of those will take. If I don’t have a plan for how I’m going to accomplish the front-end needs of a project, I’m really leaving my team out to dry. Nobody wins.
  3. Feeling Inadequate – This is something I am just beginning to see improvement in myself. I used to put a lot of pressure on myself to know my stuff. If I got something wrong it was kind of devastating. But in this field things are constantly changing with new technologies, new needs, new behavior trends among users… it keeps you on your toes. When I first started out I felt like I had to know everything and had to have the right answer. Now I know that we are all looking for the best answer based on the current needs and resources. It’s not about having the right answer, as to having the right conversation and making sure you are asking good questions. Leave your ego out of it.

This list is a lot shorter than my list of ‘loves’. Honestly, I love what I do. I have fun everyday and I’m so grateful to be a part of making the world a better place in this way.

2 Years and still going: What I love about front-end developement

Front End Coding Love

It’s been a full two years now of professional employment as a front end and I have a list of things I love about it. Here it is:

1. The ‘Zone’ – I’m not sure what to call it, but for now I’ll refer to is as the ‘zone’. There is a point in some projects where as I’m coding and iterating I become hyper aware of the act of creation that I’m taking part in. That moment when making the design come to life either by nailing it or even enhancing it (like via animation or how it handles various screen sizes) that is just awesome. It begins to feel like painting… like I’m actually creating something… a piece of art. I love that feeling.
2. Seeing how people interact with the work – when I look at analytics and see how people, through the design of the website, are doing what you were working to get them to accomplish. Finding where they are supposed to click quickly or interacting with something you intended to make interesting… it’s super cool to actually influence people in this way.
3. Awesome, talented people – I am daily bl own away by the creativity of those around me, be it other developers, designers, producers or others. Watching how others approach a problem completely different than I would and seeing how their ideas enhance mine or vice versa… wow. That kind of collaboration is addictive.
4. The satisfaction of making something work – taking the (sometimes abstract) requests of others and making them reality. Kind of feels like wizardry.
5. The fashion -Hipster socks, beanie hats and cool t-shirts. There isn’t an obligation to dress up, but it seems cultural in this field to dress how best expresses you – be it a sloth t-shirt or a crochet’d vest. I also like the free t-shirts.

I’m sure there’s more I like but these were the first 5 that popped into my head. More to come later on what I hate (yeah, there’s a list for that too).