The Final 20% – Improving Craftsmanship in Web Development


I recently gave a talk at WordCamp Boston 2015 on improving craftsmanship in web development. For most of 2015 I have been on a mission to improve the efficiency and quality of my work. The talk is an overview of everything I have learned about improving skills, refining processes, and creating procedures.

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Deep Practice

The first part of the talk revolved around the concept of Deep Practice. In the book The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle travels around the world trying to learn if people are born with talent, or if it can be learned by anyone. What he discovers is fascinating. People can develop talent by engaging in Deep Practice.

  1. Try something that is slightly beyond your comfort zone
  2. Slowly struggle through learning the new technique
  3. Repeat until you can do it correctly over and over

The 80/20 Principle

The next section of the talk focused on improving efficiency through the 80/20 principle. The idea is that 20% of your work effort accounts for 80% of the outcomes. By focusing on the 20% that produces the most results, over time you learn how to accomplish more with less effort.

Building Systems

Finally, I talked about the importance of building systems and procedures into your workflow. I walked through the steps of how to build a procedures document, and then how to use it to improve the quality and consistency of your work. If you’re tired of working 60 hours a week, Work the System by Sam Carpenter goes into great detail about how to create and implement systems into your business.

How to Write a Procedure

  1. Do the task as you normally would
  2. For each step you complete, describe it in detail in a 1-2-3 step checklist
  3. Evaluate each step to see if it can be simplified or improved
  4. Experiment with different techniques
  5. If you find an improvement, update the original working procedure

Finally, don’t sacrifice quality for efficiency.

Improve your efficiency, and your quality of work will follow. The goal is not to become a factory that churns out websites. The goal is to be a craftsman of the web, improving steadily one day at a time.

What are some inefficiencies in your own workflow, and how can they be improved?

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