“When I spoke to someone about the Tesla Model S, I didn’t really want to know what was right about the car. I wanted to know what was wrong about the car.”
Elon Musk

Three companies valued at over $1 billion each—PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX. Elon Musk is, by any measure, considered one of the greatest business minds of our time. Only three people in history have ever founded three companies valued at such heights; and with so much success in his portfolio, it may surprise you to learn that Mr. Musk can be obsessively focused on failure.

Why, you ask? Because failure is the root of all greatness.

You should take the approach that you’re wrong. Your goal is to be less wrong.” Musk’s quote there is widely distributed around the Internet. It’s fortuitous business advice, but it’s also great advice for web designers, who often find themselves teetering on the fence between client approval and forward-thinking design. Think about it, in times of conflict, if you assume you are wrong, you’re more likely to find a solution that hasn’t occurred to either party yet.

Failing Up

Metal Potato wasn’t always the go-to spot for custom, WordPress-based websites. There was a time in the (now fairly distant) past where we would gladly build on any Content Management System. We dabbled in all the dark arts: Joomla, Drupal, and even a few that most people have never heard of.

Those websites, by and large, were all failures in that sense. WordPress was always in our wheelhouse, but we dabbled in the dark magic to appease clients, a skill set that helped no one by providing less-than optimal user experiences. It took WordPress—and the shift towards responsive designs in general—to help us see that we were wrong.

Around 2013, all of our designs shifted over to WordPress, in order to provide a more user-friendly experience for all of our customers, and to enable us to specialise in responsive web design (a corner of the market that we managed to own for several years, before our new launch on time ethos took over.)

With WordPress and responsive web design, our business numbers grew by exponential amounts. Our staff grew along with those numbers, and our global reach increased from Devon, across the U.K. and over into North America. Times at Metal Potato were, and are good. But along the way, there have still been plenty of failures to keep us on track.

We look at those failures from time to time, the websites where things just weren’t quite right.

Maybe the problem was something small, like a contact form, or copy that didn’t quite line up. Maybe it was a larger issue, like a flawed principle behind a site. (The original iteration of Point5Digital, rest in peace, generated hundreds of thousands of page views per month, yet suffered from a severe lack of focus that was eventually remedied by splicing it in half.)

In the end, we look back and we reflect: what went wrong here? How can we do better?

We take those criticisms and we build them into new projects, learning from our mistakes. Let’s face it, nobody likes to be told their idea is garbage. But if you believe Elon Musk, it’s a critical part of success.

And, hey, we must be doing something right—90 percent of our customers do come back.