This weekend, I built some shelves in my closet. It was pretty simple affair — some pre-finished shelving boards, wooden corbels, and a rod for hanging things. What’s funny is that the supplies for all this have been sitting on the floor in my office for about eight weeks now. Every time my wife asks me if I’m going to do the closet, I say “yeah, but there’s a lot I need to think through, to figure out how I want it.” I had big plans for super custom shelves, with beveled trim and all kinds of beautiful polish. And so while I thought about it, the pieces sat there for more and more weeks; meanwhile my clothes continued to pile up on the floor and become an undifferentiated mass because I had no shelves.
Finally, after more gentle prodding from Frannie, I took a few hours the other day and put up the shelves in the way that made the most immediate sense. It was quite simple in the end, but the change was dramatic. Now, instead of a big messy pile, I have shelves on three walls and everything is stacked neatly. My daily wardrobe has been refreshed as I’ve found shirts that have been on the bottom of the pile for weeks. Amazing! Some product is better than no product.
Now that the shelves are up, there are a few things that aren’t quite right. Lucky for me, it’s easy to put a few screws in the wall and move a shelf. So I did — and I added another hanging rod when I realized I needed one. Simple — a total of one more trip to the hardware store and 30 minutes of work. I’ll surely make more changes in the future.
The point of this is not to talk about my closet and awesome t-shirt collection. This is about iteration and product development. And of course I’m thinking about it in terms of my real job, building things on the web. Especially when there’ s a big team involved, it’s really easy to get into a pattern of “think think think! argue! mull mull! get it perfect before we build anything!”. When really, often times the best approach is to just build *something* and start using it, then go back and make revisions.
The old carpenter’s adage is “measure twice, cut once”. That makes sense when materials are expensive and decisions are permanent (i.e., you can make a rope shorter, but not longer). But with the web, like with closets, I prefer: measure, cut; measure, cut; measure, cut.
That’s not to say I don’t believe in planning; I do. I believe in working strategically from a strong thesis. But when it comes to building, less sooner is always better than more later.
This isn’t a new idea! Of course not — it has been written about extensively, and it’s an idea I’ve been a believer in for years. But I’m still surprised by how easy it can be to fall back into a “measure twice, cut once” mentality.