I think we’re all idiots at Primate. A little for starting up a web agency in a time of economic instability, slightly because of some genetic form of mental retardation, but mainly because we take the most time consuming way possible to solve every problem we encounter. It’s a phenomenon known as the long, hard, stupid way. And we’re most definitely stupid.
As a businessman, I don’t know why we do it. It would be quicker to fling every site we build onto a CMS like WordPress, easier to use dirt cheap hosting, faster to combine together every open source tool imaginable without thought into some horrendous Frankenstein’s monster of an end product… but we don’t. It’s sheer lunacy really and a mentality that leads to suggestions like building our very own WYSIWYG editor, an idea so utterly fucking stupid that it can only be matched by my ridiculous suggestion of a new government run by a trinity of one exceedingly smart, one exceedingly buff and one exceedingly hot person (an idea, which I must confess, deep down I still think has merit).
As a craftsman though, the benefits of the long, hard, stupid way are obvious. The attention to detail is second to none, the function and usability is precise and measured, the design and content is well-thought out, has meaning and connects with the user and, not to mention, the final overall quality of of the end product is incredibly high.
by turning a process into a labour of love we imbue it with characteristics and qualities beyond the mere technical or tactical
But aside from these clear advantages though, there are also a lot of subtle and less obvious ones. Human beings have some innate desire to achieve perfection and, regardless of whether or not we strive for it individually, it’s a quality that we admire and respect in others. It’s this psychological facet that Frank Chimero discusses in his talk about the long, hard, stupid way and how by turning a process into a labour of love we imbue it with characteristics and qualities beyond the mere technical or tactical. By pouring our hearts and souls into everything we do we not only receive pleasure but also give joy to the end user because, ultimately, it is all of those little things, the subtle nuances, the last the one percent of extreme effort that people do notice and do care about it.
The mantra of the long, hard, stupid way is not about ignoring open source software or existing frameworks or conventions (the right tool for the job and all that), rather it’s about making sure everything is absolutely perfect, right down to the smallest detail, and not compromising in your vision using sub-par components because it happens to be quicker or easier. It’s about taking pride in your work and finding joy in crafting every tiny component and piece of the puzzle, enjoying the actual process itself rather than simply the financial rewards at the end.
For us this means making sites responsive when they don’t need to be, implementing baseline CSS so every tiny piece of text sits just oh so right, making custom images for every single blog post we write, and crying ourselves to sleep at night because that damn bespoke WYSIWYG editor just won’t bend to our collective programming will. For others it means making a Mac Book with a light that pulsates to the exact rhythm of the human heart, designing an Amazon logo that has an arrow that just so happens to connect A to Z, and painstaking drawing a portrait using 3.2million individual dots.
Guess that means that there are plenty of other idiots out there who follow the long, hard, stupid way too.
Photo credit: John Rawlinson