A UX UI designer drawing on a whiteboard

UX Blog: The Case Against Best Practice

“At the end of the day, you have to know that ‘best practice’ is right for your users in your product.”

There are many times where UX best practice are helpful, useful and a good guide to follow. A quick Google search shows there is no shortage of sites, articles and musings on rules, principles and guidelines under the guise of ‘best practices.’ However, this is also misleading to newcomers and junior UX professionals, as it posits this is the way, often times without context. This can lead to a host of issues and errant conformity, and even work to dull creativity and ingenuity. At the end of the day, you have to know that ‘best practice’ is right for your users in your product. Just because it works in Facebook, doesn’t mean it will work in your application. Best practice does not excuse us from testing with users.

Outline of different types of unified text fields on a website

As an example, when I was brought in to lead a team on a large, complex processing application, designers were stacking form fields vertically. This makes perfect sense for a simple sign up form with only a few fields. However, there is a law of diminishing returns on this ‘best practice’ method. Twenty fields later, the user is well below the fold and loses context and focus. Testing showed users did not like this and felt lost on the page. This is an example of where blind faith on something that tested well in another scenario can fail to live up to user’s expectations.

Moral of the story, ‘don’t make assumptions.’ Just because it works in one instance, does not mean it will fit all instances. Put in the work, do the research, test and make sure your hypothesis is informed and validated.


written by Shane Close, originally appearing here

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