Four Things I’ve Learned So Far in 5 Years of Application Design

I've been designing and building web applications for the past five years. They have included communities, aggregations, niche markets and complex deployments. And I seem to run into the same four problems every time. But in the last year, I feel like I've been able to relax a little and keep these things in mind.

Test
There is a need to make sure everything is figured out. The scope is perfect, the pixels are all lined up. But really, you need to put something on paper, put it in front of users and let them tell you what you are supposed to be doing. Users always surprise me with how they can point out the obvious that YOU have missed. And you did miss it, you screwed up. Isn't it awesome that a USER will tell you what THEY want.

Talk About It
Build a network of people that you can talk to about what you are working on. I have key people in my life that I can go to with questions, to vent, or to just get out of my own head. The majority of the time, when I'm stressed, it's because I've lost perspective and I'm trapped in my head. There is nothing better than an evening talking to someone brighter than you about something you are working on. This will open your mind and you'll begin to see possibilities again. Being trapped in your own head sucks.

Hire REALLY Talented People
I'll gladly pay someone a top rate to have a problem solved. Be wary of discount rates. And be wary of people that apologize for their rates. The problems we are working on are really complex. They are problems that haven't been solved, or that require new ways to solve them, and that isn't easy. So why burden yourself with even MORE complexity by hiring a discount rate or using someone that doesn't really have the chops. It just adds to the aggravation. If your building an application, don't hire a company that doesn't develop applications. Just cause it's on the web, doesn't mean that an application is the same as a brochure site.

Stop Panicking
This is something I have to remind myself all the time. Stop Panicking. Focus, work hard, ask advice, get feedback. It'll be fine. I get to work on some awesome projects. They are meaningful and help people. But I'm not being shot at. I'm not running into burning buildings. I'm not starving. Perspective is really important. Work hard, do the best you possibly  can, but don't panic. That's when you make really dumb decisions.

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