Fast, Cheap, or Good: Pick Two

In FAQby Ian StrouseLeave a Comment

A film professor of mine once told me about the following rule: “fast, cheap, or good,” she said, “pick two.” I was studying in a department focused on independent filmmaking, and the advice was applicable to us because much independent filmmaking is done on a shoestring budget. Given that financial reality, there would always be a choice between sacrificing speed or quality. But this rule can apply to almost any kind of project, including website design or web app development.

If a project is like a train, then the planning process is like the tracks. The tracks have to be placed ahead of the train before it arrives. On a slower moving project, there is plenty of time for planning — plenty of time to lay down the tracks — without needing to dedicate too many resources to the planning process. As a project’s velocity increases, more resources are required, not just for actual project work but also for coordination. This translates to exponentially increased cost. And arguably there is a limit — at any expense — to how fast a project can be completed. The tracks simply can’t be laid down fast enough. This outcome is called a trainwreck. And at this point, quality is obviously out the window.

Many projects are attempted on a shoestring budget, for any number of reasons. For most people, this is the only way to start something. Anyone with a passion project wants to see it launch into escape velocity, the point at which it generates enough revenue to sustain itself and grow. But first it’s got to get off the ground. Since most people don’t have access to rocket fuel (aka VC funding), or simply don’t want to give away part of their business, the remaining options are to ask friends and family for help or to bootstrap. Bootstrapping is an exciting and noble way to start, but it’s also incredibly risky. As creators, we’re constantly faced with the thought, “Is my project going to soar into the sky or crash and burn?” There is an impulse to do anything to get to revenue neutral — that point where the thing is objectively flying on its own. And this can include pushing forward at a breakneck pace. But now we’ve asked for the project to be inexpensive and high velocity. We’ve picked fast and cheap, and quality is once again out the window.

We all want our creations to be good. Quality would seem to be the thing that no one would compromise. And yet we’ve just seen some nasty, quality-destroying traps that can suck the life out of a project. So let’s say we really commit to placing quality first this time. We swear that we will do nothing to jeopardize the sea-worthiness of our vessel. Can we devote an unlimited amount of time to building this boat? Of course not. Is money still an object? Of course it is. So what do we do to maintain focus on quality, while not letting time or cost get out of hand? The answer is, we prioritize. We start small. There are many names for this: proof of concept, market validation, minimum viable product (MVP). The idea is to identify the core concept of the project, and find the most lightweight way to make it manifest. It only needs to exist enough so that people can interact with it, and their reactions can be measured. We’re not building a ship yet. Maybe not even a sailboat. What we need is a stand up paddleboard. That’s it.

But it had better be a good SUP. We’re not sacrificing quality, right? So what was the cost, and how long did it take to get it done? Well, maybe a crack team of engineers built it in a couple weeks. Or maybe it took months of tinkering singlehandedly in the garage to get it right. Or maybe — and here we bend the rule just a little — maybe it was a compromise between time and money. Maybe it was built on a medium budget at a medium pace, but still at a high level of quality.

At gooWee, quality is always our first priority. Next we strive to make our projects as affordable as possible, without compromising on #1, and we’re constantly working to streamline our processes to bring down cost. We also work with our clients to define the core value proposition of a project, and plan an MVP based on that. This allows us to build a project as fast as possible, but no faster. In short, we aim to find a reasonable balance between speed and cost, but we always get the job done right. If you want to learn more about how we can help with your website design or web app development project, please don’t hesitate to connect with us!

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