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The A List Apart Blog Presents:

The Most Dangerous Word In Software Development

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“Just put it up on a server somewhere.”

“Just add a favorite button to the right side of the item.”

“Just add [insert complex option here] to the settings screen.”

Usage of the word “just” points to a lot of assumptions being made. A few months ago, Brad Frost shared some thoughts on how the word applies to knowledge.

“Just” makes me feel like an idiot. “Just” presumes I come from a specific background, studied certain courses in university, am fluent in certain technologies, and have read all the right books, articles, and resources.

He points out that learning is never as easy as it is made to seem, and he’s right. But there is a direct correlation between the amount of knowledge you’ve acquired and the danger of the word “just.” The more you know, the bigger the problems you solve, and the bigger the assumptions are that are hiding behind the word.

Take the comment, “Just put it up on a server somewhere.” How many times have we heard that? But taking a side project running locally and deploying it on real servers requires time, money, and hard work. Some tiny piece of software somewhere will probably be the wrong version, and will need to be addressed. The system built locally probably isn’t built to scale perfectly.

“Just” implies that all of the thinking behind a feature or system has been done. Even worse, it implies that all of the decisions that will have to be made in the course of development have already been discovered—and that’s never the case.

Things change when something moves from concept to reality. As Dave Wiskus said on a recent episode of Debug, “everything changes when fingers hit glass.”

The favorite button may look fine on the right side, visually, but it might be in a really tough spot to touch. What about when favoriting isn’t the only action to be taken? What happens to the favorite button then?

Even once favoriting is built and in testing, it should be put through its paces again. In use, does favoriting provide enough value to warrant is existence? After all, “once that feature’s out there, you’re stuck with it.”

When you hear the word “just” being thrown around, dig deep into that statement and find all of the assumptions made within it. Zoom out and think slow.

Your product lives and dies by the decisions discovered between ideation and creation, so don’t just put it up on a server somewhere.

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