Ian Philpot

In my line of work, Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year with some of the largest and most important projects coming due all at once. This was my fourth Christmas, and it’s safe to say that it doesn’t get easier over time.

But looking back to the first Christmas working for the church, I’ve learned a lot. It was at that first Christmas that I understood the importance of excellence within the organization.

I was sitting in my cubicle working on the position of an image on the Christmas website we were making, and the head of my department, Ted, stopped by to ask me a question about something. But he paused mid-question as he stepped closer to my computer screen.

“Can you add five pixels of padding on the top and eight on the left?” Ted asked.

I thought the image was in a good position, and some additional padding would help, so I quickly flipped over to the HTML, wrote in the code, saved the changes, and refreshed the web page.

“Can you add two more pixels of padding on the top?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said, and I made that change and refreshed the web page.

“Can you add one more pixel to the left?” he asked.

I was a little surprised. One pixel? Really? There are over three quarters of a million pixels on my computer monitor, and he wanted me to move this pixel over by one?

In total, Ted spent about five minutes directing me in getting that one image in the right spot on that page, and I had to repeat those changes on the dozen or so other pages with an image in that same spot.

When I was done, I went into his office and asked him to refresh the site so he could see my work. He said it looked great, but then started asking if I could change the position of some text in another place.

Being that this was my first job out of school and I wasn’t married, I spent way more time than I ever should have working on little things for that Christmas website. I looked at every object on the web page as an individual piece and as part of the whole. I went in early and stayed late making sure everything was in the right spot, even if it meant moving it one pixel.

That experience changed me. Since then, I’ve used painstaking effort to try to make all of my work “one pixel perfect.”

To be totally honest, there are times when a lot of work piles up and I need to move through it quickly, and those are the times when it’s obvious that my work has missed the mark because I don’t have the time to be “one pixel perfect.”

Having missed the mark several times, I’ve learned two very important things about being “one pixel perfect:”

  1. “One pixel perfect” work takes dedicated time and focus. It should be any surprise that getting things right takes time, but my organization moves very quickly and I’m never working on one project at a time. This makes “one pixel perfect” work extremely difficult as emails, other projects, and coworkers pull me (and my time) in different directions.
  2. After turning in “one pixel perfect” work, any other level of work suddenly becomes unacceptable. This is true both for myself and my superiors. I have found that I can obsess over something and put in extra time to get everything just right, but that can take a toll on my marriage. But if I don’t put in that extra time and I get distracted by other work, my boss can recognize it right away.

I’m not to the point where I’ve figured out how to avoid the problems those two points raise. Maybe that’s something I’ll never figure out.

What I do know is that I enjoy making “one pixel perfect” work. It’s very satisfying and comes with a feeling of pride that I’ve finished a job the best way possible.