What level of work quality do you like to show in your weekly challenge entries and downloads?

Recently I was chatting with David Anderson about my pre-Articulate days.  I was sharing with him how scary it was for me to participate in my first weekly challenge. I didn't have a lot of time to devote to unpaid/portfolio work, so I knew anything I shared probably wouldn't be my best work. In many instances my anxiety resulted in design paralysis; I was so afraid of sharing something subpar that I ended up showing nothing at all. Can anyone else relate to that feeling? 

For those of you who are weekly challenge regulars, what advice would you give to folks who are intimidated by the thought of sharing their work? How do you avoid design paralysis? What practical tips can you share for getting the most out of sharing your work with the community?

Thanks, as always, for being so generous with your advice!

16 Replies
Nancy Woinoski

What a great question. I almost always show work the is subpar because I use the challenges as an opportunity to explore ideas before trying them in real courses. Even though I am showing my work to the world I feel the challenges are a safe, supportive environment.  In fact my one wish for the challenges is that more people would be willing to give constructive criticism because that is the best way to learn.

Phil Mayor

I would agree with Nancy, I think most work submitted to challenges  is about 50-60% of my capability. I have had a similar conversation with David as I feel if I cannot do it well I shouldn't do it at all. generally I would spend no more than 4 hours on a challenge.  I would also like the challenge feedback to be more critical, but I do love the challenges for finding inspiration. 

David Price

I am yet to submit anything to the weekly challenge, but I have wanted to for a quite a while.  One reason why not is down to time but I suppose I agree that it is a little intimidating posting a challenge up for the first time.  I have every confidence in my abilities as a designer but its like submitting an entry to competition and whether people will like it or not.

For me thought its not limited to eLearning, I do exactly the same with my photography, afraid that it isn't good enough, etc.  I suppose its only natural to feel like that.  I've seen plenty of challenges over the past few weeks that I have wanted to have a go at but not yet been able to sit down, think about it and design something.

Jeff Kortenbosch

I agree with Nancy, Phil and Rachel. This is a place to learn and share. I love the fact that I can slap something together over lunch or in an evening and share it with people. Although my own design standards may have risen over the past years I feel the Challenges are a great place to show and try concepts, and yes even inspire people a little to try different things.

When I joined the community years ago I learned by looking at peoples examples and trying to recreate them, checking out source files whenever possible.

A tip I will give those that are somewhat uncomfortable with not sharing their best work is: add some context to what you share. Create a start screen with an ELHChallenge disclaimer :), anything that would help people understand this is a demo/experiment part of the Articulate ELHChallenges.

Go ahead! Give it a try. But beware these challenges are mighty addictive!

Daniel Brigham

I've participated in a handful of challenges, and I'd say the pieces are at about 60% quality of what I could do with more time. I imagine what freaks some people is that Jackie's pieces are so damn good. It'd freak me, if I had actual time to think about it.

Like many of you, I make a pretty good living building "blended learning solutions" (oh brother), but not all of my stuff is good. The same is true of most creatives: think of all the "throwaway" tracks of your favorite musician or band.  

To aid sharing, perhaps David could add constraints around a challenge once in a while--e.g.,"Pinky promise that you will spend no more than 3 hours (or whatever) from start to finish." People would still fudge it, probably. Apologies to David if he has done this.

Daniel closes with cryptic quote that a certain David will understand.

"Here lies David St. Hubbins...and why not!"


Trina Rimmer

What a great idea, Rachel. I probably would've felt a little differently about the challenges if I could've signaled my openness to constructive criticism. Although, I will say that I did get the occasional "What were you thinking?" or "This wasn't really intuitive" kind of feedback from fellow challenge participants—and much of it was quite insightful once I got over my initial embarrassment/discomfort. 

Daniel Brigham

Dearest Trina: You are on to something re: Confessions of an Elearning
Developer. One segment could be on how developers cheat. You know, set it
up in a "tantalizing" way, and then go on to talk about our
favorites--e.g., condensing the text on a bullet so it fits on a line,
using fade animations to cover alignment sins, etc., etc.

If nothing else, it'd make a good blog post.

David Charney

I like what everyone here is saying. I like to have quality but tend to focus the quality on something specific due to the time it takes to put stuff together. If the challenge is about motion, then I try to make the motion the highest quality by spending more time on how smooth it is or timing and ease amount. If it is about an interaction type, I will spend more time on that and let some of the secondary elements be a little rougher. I like to think that the focused quality makes some of the other elements that are not quite quality enough look a little better. Like Phil is saying I certainly qualitize (is that a word?) the stuff I think can be reusable. 

Richard Watson

What an interesting post. So far, there has been a lot of very good advice and perspectives. I think when I first started, I put more time/work into my challenge submission but as time goes by, I've reduced my efforts to 2-3 hours maximum when I am able to participate. As the saying goes, "I need to get the paying customers taken care of first!" 

One thing I've tried to do with challenges is to create things that a future client could see using (albeit with modifications ) within their company. This is not always the case but when I can incorporate "real-world" applications into a challenge, it helps build my portfolio for future clients.

My advice?

I think each person has to decide what their goal is for participating in a challenge and then proceed accordingly. For example, is it to network with fellow designers and have some fun? Is it to build a portfolio for future client work? Is it to gather feedback from others on how to improve your overall design skills?  

Once you understand your goal(s) (they may change from one challenge to the next), just ask yourself each time...how does participating in this challenge help me to move closer to my goal?  

Oh, yeah... Jackie encouraged me to participate in my first challenge so I took her advice and jumped in. It was rather easy because I used her drinking game template!  Low risk, high reward but I never looked back! Prior to that point, I just spent my time behind the scenes reading what others were doing.