Is there a silver lining to f**king up?

A reminder that design is more than the pixels.

I f**k’d up the other day. I got sloppy and lazy. I caused a cascading set of issues for other people. I put a small dent in the trust of a customer.

Worst of all, it took me off my game. I felt like I put the puck in my own net. The next day was hard to get my mojo back, no matter how much I owned my mistake or apologized.

I am by no means the Gretzky of Product Design. Any success I enjoy is due to the teams and people around me. Fortunately, I must have something going for me because good folks (customers included) keep choosing to work with me.

I am part of a great team of quality people. They won’t judge from one incident, but rather from a pattern of behaviour. But this stung my ego a bit because I fancy myself a “professional”.

No matter how clever my UI, how connected to the customer my solution is, no matter how smokin’ hot my pixels are… there’s a bunch of stuff I do “off screen” that is of equal importance.

Generally, it’s being organized and being deliberate with my “non-pixel” decisions.

Dumping data into a prototype. Labeling a PSD layer. Sharing a mock-up. Commenting some code. Organizing a design repo. Prepping meeting notes. Sketching ideas. Answering an emailing. Running a design review. Filling out a Git issue. Tracking time. So. Many. Decisions.

When I am on my game, I run through a little mental checklist:

1. How does this impact a teammate?

2. What if a customer saw this?

4. Will this make sense in 6 months to anyone?

I don’t do well with deathly pedantic processes and I like to have fun. Self-awareness that my “off screen” work has as much impact on a project (or a business) as the “on screen” serves me well.

Well… until I got lazy and made a rash decision for a quick demo (and a laugh over beers).

“Ah, whatever. It’s too much work to set that up for a 15 minute demo. I’ll post it here and delete it after we’re done.”

I did delete it. After a customer found it via a Google search. One year later.

You ever tried to rank a page high in Google. It’s hard right? Try un-indexing it from a deep, long standing domain.

What’s the silver lining?

There isn’t one. I f’d up.

Pixels are cheap and easy. I can usually fix a poor design decision and move on. In fact, I am often happy for the challenge.

Fixing a pattern of bad work habits is not cheap nor easy. I’ve been at this for too long and I’ve f’d up enough times to know.

Short of playing Chicago’s ’82 classic “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” as punishment, I’d love to hear other people’s stories of recovering from a professional stumble.

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