by Paul Boag

I recently came across this superb post entitled “Why I hate working with perfectionists
written by Karl Mendes. Karl perfectly summed up a growing problem I am
seeing among many website owners and web designers. It is a subject I
feel so passionately about that I felt I had to throw my hat into the

The problem

The problem began with certain high profile web designers who I will
kindly call somewhat elitist. These web designers liked to describe
themselves as perfectionists. They believe in an obsessive attention to
detail and an unwillingness to compromise their desire for perfection.

Because of their reputation this idea has begun to seep into the culture of web even going as far as some website owners.

On the surface this all sounds great. Surely we should strive for
perfection in design? Isn’t it good to have an obsessive attention to

The problem is that there is no such thing as perfection.

No such thing as perfection

Perfection is very much in the eye of the beholder. In my opinion it
takes an incredible amount of arrogance to say my idea of perfection is
somehow more valid than yours.

Of course it could be argued that a designers perception of design perfection is
more valid than that of a website owners. The problem is that
relentlessly seeking perfection in one field often undermines others.

For example, an obsession with detail is a huge drain on time and
money. You may go someway towards reaching a mythical design perfection
but at the same time you undermine any perfection in !

Equally design perfection may clash with a perfection in code. In
short pure perfection is not possible even if it wasn’t so subjective.

Personally I am the opposite of a perfectionist. I am a pragmatist.

Choose pragmatism every time

The thing that angers me so much about perfectionists is the sense of
superiority. Most perfectionists I know in web design are those who
work on huge projects with massive budgets. They have the luxury of
being able to spend months working on a user interface. The problem is
they still look down on those who don’t achieve their level of
‘perfectionism’ even if they don’t have the budget.

These are the people that sneer at websites thrown together in a
WYSIWG editor like Dreamweaver. Admittedly many website should not be
built in this way. However for some sites this is perfectly valid. For
example I have built my youth groups website in iWeb. It’s absolutely shocking. However, am I embarrassed by it? Not at all. It is the right solution for the project…

  • It had no budget.
  • I had no time to build something.
  • It’s going to be looked at by a handful of people.
  • The target audience don’t care what it looks like as long as it works.
  • It does not need to impress anyone.

Is it perfection? Absolutely not. Was it the most pragmatic solution in the situation? Absolutely.

That is the problem with perfection, it does not allow for context.

Karl summed it up for me when he quoted 37Signal’s book Rework

They claim to be perfectionists, but that just means they
are wasting time fixating on inconsequential details instead of moving
on to the next task.

Amen to that.