On Hacker News today, calinet6 writes an insightful comment on why attention to details matters and that it even if most people don't notice many of the details, they may subconsciously feel that the total sum of details exudes quality.
In the movie "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," there's a scene in a dark room where Roger Rabbit (an animated character) flies across the room, knocks a hanging lamp around, and the lighting becomes so dynamic that all the shadows move around including the animated character's shadow. Here's the scene in question:
This was such a small detail that it would have been forgivable if the animators had left it out entirely: if they had not moved the lamp, kept the shadow steady, no one would have really noticed the difference. It would have been 100 times easier to animate and the effect wouldn't really have been that different.
But they did it anyway. The term was later coined, and "bump the lamp" is used throughout Disney (and probably other organizations) to mean something akin to "go the extra mile"—but I see it as having a special significance to design.
You're right, most people won't notice. By that logic, you could cut corners a lot of other places too. You could be lax about button colors matching exactly, or per-pixel sharpness on the map and buttons. No one would probably notice.
But if you go for every detail like it was the most important detail, you have the possibility of reaching a level of design quality that is superlative, and some people will notice. Others will not notice directly, but will see that the piece exudes style and quality subconsciously, due to the attention to small details. If you carry this into other areas of your work—programming, customer service, market strategy, marketing, and more—then you have a chance to create something of true quality.
If you don't pay attention to detail at that level, well, you might have the chance to actually get something done. Yes, it's a balance, like everything else. But you have to know that it won't be quite as good, and understand that yes, you are sacrificing something, even if you can't see it.
Why attention to detail matters, even if no one notices the details