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Apr 16, 2024
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Craft at Mobbin

To become a design inspiration library featuring the best-in-class apps, one must first be able to discern what best-in-class looks like. While there are many factors that the success of these apps can be attributed to, one common trait stands out — an unwavering dedication to craft.

At Mobbin, we too have been striving to care deeply about our craft. We recognize that this isn't something that happens overnight, and so we have been intentional about fostering a culture that encourages and prioritizes craftsmanship. Over time, this has allowed us to slowly hone and refine our definition of craft. Here's a glimpse into what craft at Mobbin looks like:

1. Craft obsesses over the details.

When we encounter a well-crafted product, it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint what exactly it is that makes the product feel so good. Yet, when we encounter something poorly designed, we find it much easier to articulate the things that felt "off" to us.

That's because good design is mostly invisible. The well-crafted product comprises thousands of intentional details and decisions to ensure a seamless experience. And when it works the way you expect it to work, all these details simply fade into the background, allowing you to fully focus on the task at hand. But when something doesn't work the way we expect it to, the tiniest little detail that was missed becomes a glaringly large fault.

This is why we believe that the craftsman must obsess over the details, and this obsession shouldn't just stop at details that can be seen and felt. The unseen details are just as important. Peter Drucker and Jim Collins sums it up perfectly in Good to Great:

Drucker likes to tell the story of a Greek sculptor from 500 BCE who was commissioned by the city of Athens to construct a set of statues to ring the top of a building. The sculptor toiled for months longer than expected, making the backs of the statues as beautiful as the fronts. The city commissioners, angered by his extra work, asked: "Why did you make the backs of the statues as beautiful as the front? No one will ever see the backs!"

"Yes, but the Gods can see them, and I know it's there" replied the sculptor.

Building something great has more to do with the integrity of your input. I can't guarantee great results, but I can guarantee that the best feeling about what you do will come when the backs of the statues that no one else can see are as beautiful as the fronts. Not because of what you'll get for this, but simply because it's a higher standard. And that quiet knowledge of that higher standard that only you know—that, in the end, is what I wish for you.

2. Craft is not the pursuit of perfection.

While perfection may be an admirable goal, it is ultimately unattainable. In the pursuit of perfection, you eventually get to the point of diminishing returns, where you are spending an immoderate amount of time on things that have little to no impact on the experience.

As much as we enjoy pushing the bar and raising the standard, we also have to acknowledge that, as a business, this is unrealistic and likely unsustainable. Overly focusing on self-satisfaction directly equates to having less time for solving users' problems and addressing their needs.

Yet on the other hand, self-satisfaction is a must-have for one to find their work meaningful. So, then how do we navigate the fine line between obsessing over details while remaining mindful of the need for pragmatism?

3. Craft is balance.

Craft is form and function. Both are important, and neither can be neglected. A teapot, no matter how beautiful, is useless if it has a hole in the bottom. What should a good ceramicist do here — patch the hole or continue beautifying the pot? While the answer to this scenario is pretty straightforward, in reality, finding a balance between form and function is rarely as simple.

Running a business dictates that we prioritize and focus on function — addressing business and user needs. At Mobbin, we've found that by holding ourselves to a sufficiently high baseline for form, we can counteract the overemphasis on function and strike the right balance between the two.

This way, we are afforded the chance to obsess over details if we know our work is below the baseline. This also gives us a guideline of when to stop. Once we've met the baseline, anything beyond that can go into the backlog, and be picked up when we have downtime.

Of course, values like these are easier said than done. Anyone can profess to care about craft, but only a few can walk the talk. At Mobbin, it's not just a few individuals who care; it's a core value shared and upheld by every single one of us:

  • In our content team, craft shows itself in the extremely comprehensive app teardowns of each curated app. Craft is our curated collection of 1000+ apps, 300,000+ hand-tagged screens, and 60,000+ flows complete with hand-drawn hotspots.
  • In our growth team, apart from building new features, craft is exemplified in the deliberation that goes behind each partnership, and ensuring that A/B-tests and marketing materials meet our bar for design. Craft is looking past vanity metrics and digging deep into data to identify true insights.
  • In our machine learning team, craft is the effort and care that goes into building high-quality internal tools to support our ML workflows. Craft is ensuring that our models are trained on only the best images, labelled with an extremely high degree of accuracy.
  • In our product team, craft is obsessing over all aspects of the product — from the overall experience down to the smallest details. Craft is the countless unseen hours of debate, experimentation, and iteration behind each feature to deliver only the best possible experience to our users.

Obsessing over details, avoiding the pitfall of perfection and finding the right balance between form and function. This is what craft at Mobbin looks like. This dedication to craft has helped us deliver high-value work that we’re proud of, and we believe it will help us to continue doing so in the future.