Skip to main content


User Experience: When Best Practices Are Just Bad Habits

In virtually every kickoff meeting or design review I’ve ever attended, the words “Best Practice” get brought up at least once. At their core, best practices are supposed to be the accepted rules that we as designers reference to make sure our work is the best it can be. Like minimum code in construction, best practices outline a framework for success and help define requirements.
These things exist and are widely accepted for very good reasons, right? Right?

UX moves pretty fast

The downside to treating anything as a benchmark in a field that’s evolving as quickly as user experience, is that yesterday’s best practice is today’s bad habit.
Some examples:

  • A few years ago the rotating hero was widely accepted as the best way to showcase a variety of features on a homepage. And now we know that, in most instances, even the first slide gets minimal attention and subsequent slide interaction is next to nil.
  • Auto-playing video with sound seemed like a great idea, a way to advertise directly to a user and capture their attention. Except that it’s and users are likely to abandon your site as a way to turn off the sound.
  • Requiring a user to register before major interactions seemed like a great way to capture customer data and get the user to commit, but we’ve since learned that in some scenarios, this is a barrier that may lead to higher bounce rates.

So how do we determine what current best practices are? If there are a hundred ways to deliver a message, which way is the right way? In truth, there is no single right way. It’s all subjective.

Figure out what works best here and now, for this case

Instead of looking for a blanket solution, focus on the right answer for your users and your product. This means researching, gathering data, designing, and testing in an iterative cycle.  You’ll probably have to adjust and try again a couple of times. In fact, you should expect to. The way YOUR users interact with your site should define the experience, and only through testing cycles can we determine what those paths need to look like.

  • What is the context of use?
  • What are the primary goals?
  • How and when and where are they going to use this?

Defining those problems, creating an approach, testing the ideas, and ultimately implementing a solution will deliver better results than any design based on preconceived rules.
A tailored design, customized to your users, is truly the best practice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.