A Punch is A Punch: On Technique

It is irresponsible for people who don’t understand the nuances of the responsive vs. adaptive debate to write sweeping posts arguing for one technique over another.

-Karen McGrane “A/B Tests are Destroying your User Experience


Most of the posts people write today have the formula of:

“Bold Claim + Sweeping Attack + Popular Methodology.”

These are not worth anyone’s time and are taking up bandwidth.  They are easy to write – I’ve written plenty of them, and I’m taking them down, because they stink.

The truth is that while the absolute best work just nails the basics; the nuance, precision, and experience to make those design decisions is not easy and very very few people are actually that good.  And that’s ok – the way they got to be that good is by making a lot of ‘less-good’ decisions.

This isn’t an original concept either – that the ultimate in sophistication is simplicity.  Take it from Bruce Lee:

Before I studied the art, a punch to me was just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick no longer a kick. Now that I’ve understood the art, a punch is just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. The height of cultivation is really nothing special. It is merely simplicity; the ability to express the utmost with the minimum. It is the halfway cultivation that leads to ornamentation.


The Tortoise Always Wins: An Argument For Discipline

Discipline is probably the most overlooked ingredient in branding, design, and marketing strategy and execution.

My favorite definition of discipline is that you do the right thing at the right time in the right way every time.

The best customer service is disciplined – every single customer is treated the right way every time.

The best branding is disciplined – it sticks to the vision and mission of the organization.

The best design is disciplined in making the obvious tasks obvious, the easy tasks easy, and the possible tasks possible.

Discipline means cutting away things that aren’t necessary and avoiding things that aren’t core to the mission.  Chances are you are far better off consistently executing simple tactics every day than trying a new tactic every week or month to drive to goals.  Chances are you can (and should) use your name instead of some vague latinate word for a company identity.  Chances are that you really don’t need this feature or that for your site.

Discipline doesn’t mean Spartan, though.  It doesn’t mean that everything has to be the simplest version of what you do or that everything is simple in the first place.  It just means stop doing the stupid, avoid doing the misguided, and keep hammering the basics.

The only difference between top performers and mediocre ones in any given field are that the top performers are so much better at the basics.  They may or may not have special capabilities that allow them to do special things, but all top performers are simply better at the basics.  Most of them got that way through countless repetition until it was automatic.

If it feels difficult to do this and you want to find a shortcut, remember,  this is a good thing.  It’s supposed to be hard.  That makes it valuable.  Remember,  the tortoise always beats the hare.