Learning from Mistakes in Digital

Lisette Alvarez
Lisette Alvarez
- 4 min read

Homer Simpson


Reading Time: 4 minutes

We all make mistakes, some worse than others. The world of digital can be merciless in a lot of ways, so here’s how you can learn from your missteps and prevent them in the first place. Lisette and Andrew (who’ve never made any mistakes, ever) breakdown how failing doesn’t have to be the worst on the latest Strategy Bytes.

 

Podcast Transcript

[clips of recording flubs]

LISETTE

You didn’t think this podcast was made in one take without any bloopers or edits, did you? (laughs) No! We clean the heck out of it. We’re all human right? So, of course, we’re going to make mistakes. 

ANDREW

I don’t. I’m perfect.

LISETTE

I literally just played a clip of you screwing up a–

ANDREW

I’m Andrew, host of StrategyBytes!

LISETTE

And I’m Lisette, also a host of StrategyBytes and wrangler of flawed voice recordings–including Andrew’s…

ANDREW

I’m beautiful with all my flaws, thanks. 

LISETTE

Today we’re going to focus our thoughts on mistakes. 

ANDREW

And learning from them!

LISETTE

In a world of digital, our mistakes are forever enshrined in the unfeeling archive of Twitter screenshots and Wayback Machine, so what does it mean when working in digital? How do we deal with, and learn from, those moments when we don’t quite get things right?

ANDREW

Let’s start with project mistakes in digital, since next week we’ll focus on the world of social media. Lisette, you’ve been on website redesign projects, what are some of the, you know, digital-specific mistakes you keep seeing clients make? 

LISETTE

Most of the time, mistakes come from miscommunication. A client doesn’t realize that they were supposed to list a crucial CRM integration in their requirements, or they forget to give us access to their digital assets, or more frequently the previous vendor made a mess of their old site so we have to work even harder to untangle the problem. That’s one of the reasons why we try to cover our bases upfront and ask detailed questions. It saves us a headache of scrambling after the fact.

ANDREW

Okay, but that’s not like, project-damning level problems. You eventually solve them. What are things that can ruin a website? A company? A reputation? A life? 

LISETTE

Dark, Andrew. Well, you can imagine most of those project-ending problems usually happen long before a vendor steps into the room. And it usually happens because we fail to recognize some unspoken thing our client is trying to get across. For example, if this website redesign is really a stand-in for a last-gasp effort to revive their company. 

ANDREW

And you say I’m dark.

LISETTE

The mistakes people make when working in digital often boil down to two things — miscommunication and misunderstanding. If you don’t know how to communicate what you want, or if the team working on the digital assets don’t communicate with subject matter experts, you get big gaps in a project that are hard to overcome. Misunderstanding is more along the lines of not knowing the limitations — and opportunities — in digital. 

ANDREW

Right. That’s why it’s important to check in with a developer who can actually tell you if you can actually shove a video into that component you’ve spent months developing. 

LISETTE

In all honesty, there are often more than enough smart minds in the room to figure out a problem, or a mistake, if you pick the right team. It’s really learning to avoid those mistakes in the first place by having good communication practices in place and informed teammates at the table. 

ANDREW

And when you do make a mistake, please…please just own up to it. I can’t tell you how many times hiding mistakes just makes fixing the problem so much more difficult. If you misspelled your client’s name in a major case study, note it, go into the CMS, edit the thing, make sure it’s not misspelled anywhere else, and then apologize to the client if they got upset. 

LISETTE

And afterwards, find a good governance plan that prevents mistakes like that going forward, like making sure you run it through a spellcheck system or get another pair of eyes on it before you publish. 

ANDREW

We’re in the age of Twitter. As much as we all want to get content out there as fast as we possibly can, rushing things probably isn’t a good tactic. Especially if the goal is avoiding mistakes in the first place.

LISETTE

If you’re interested in building in a governance plan in your digital products and projects, consider consulting with multiple subject matter experts in your team. Communicate and educate. Don’t be afraid to put all your red flags on the table. It empowers you to learn from mistakes and to find new ways to prevent them. When a mistake is made in digital, it often isn’t just a one-person problem. It is systemic. So find out how to build better systems. 

ANDREW

Yeah, design around your limitations. Use technology to help! Like, I am really bad with remembering to save my work — but if I work in Google Docs, it automatically saves things for me.

LISETTE

It’s also important to know what tools work best for you. Think of a form that you fill out, click submit, and you get a big ERROR message. Important information, right? But what if that error message doesn’t tell you what is wrong — did you forget to fill in your phone number? Did you click the wrong box? Good tools hold your hand through any blind spots or mistakes. 

ANDREW

You can get your team members to help you the same way. It doesn’t have to just be machines covering your bases for you. Often your team members can give you more insight on how to improve, too. 

LISETTE

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve relied on our design team to give me better design tips.

ANDREW

Way better than being chewed out by the fashion police. Yellow is really not your color. 

LISETTE

I meant website design, Andrew.

ANDREW

Oh, I know. 

LISETTE

Anyway, being open to learning from experts in areas I’m not really an expert in is important to learning from mistakes and preventing them in the first place.

ANDREW

This month we’ll be interviewing Jennifer R. Farmer, a crisis communications expert. So keep an ear out for that episode at the end of July. And now, for the latest Abstraction…

[Cue Abstraction]

LISETTE

This is Lisette Alvarez.

ANDREW

And Andrew Amundson. Signing off for now. Thank you for listening.

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