Here’s a good professional standard: sometimes, the ‘right way’ to do things is the only way.
As a teenager, I learned this valuable lesson from my bass guitar teacher, Bob Valeno. I was 16 and seeking a new teacher to help me advance my skills. I wanted to play like my heroes, Flea and Les Claypool. It was 1996, so I literally opened the phone book and looked at the music ads. I called up Mr. Valeno – a family man and music teacher who spent his weekends gigging at bars and weddings around the Jersey Shore using the name ‘Dr. Bobbyfingers.’ Despite the amusing alias, Mr. Valeno was no joke.
After we introduced ourselves, I said casually, “I’m not looking to learn to read music; I just want to learn to play some of my favorite songs.” Bob replied, “Well, if you don’t want to learn to read music, that’s fine – but I’m not the teacher for you. If you want to work with me, we’ll do things the right way, and I’ll teach you to read.”
One fact immediately came into stark relief: I was a clueless kid and Bob was an experienced professional. I was so impressed by his standards that I signed up for a lesson right away, and studied with him for years. The way that he took authority over his subject and methods was a kind of confidence and knowledge that I wanted, too.
I listen to lots of punk rock and metal, where breaking the rules is a virtue. But you first need to learn the rules in order to break them.
Here’s how this applies to design. A client recently came to me looking for a new website. Her needs were perfectly suited for a website built with WordPress, and I told her so. She said, “But I heard about [insert new, untested startup CMS here] and my friend said it’s good. Can we use that?” My reply was the same thing the Bob would’ve said: “If you want to work with me, we’ll use WordPress, because I know that it’s the most appropriate fit for your needs.” Clients come to you because you’re an expert with the knowledge to make these kinds of decisions – not them. You wouldn’t go to the doctor and tell him to prescribe you laxative for a broken knee.
Do it the right way and do it once. Thanks to Dr. Bobbyfingers for the valuable lesson!