The following experts have contributed answers to this edition of Ask UXmatters:
- Mark Baldino—Co-Founder at Fuzzy Math
- Warren Croce—Principal UX Designer at Gazelle; Principal at Warren Croce Design
- Pabini Gabriel-Petit—Principal Consultant at Strategic UX; Publisher and Editor in Chief, UXmatters; Founding Director of Interaction Design Association (IxDA); UXmatters columnist
- Peter Hornsby—UX Manager at Distribution Technology; UXmatters columnist
- Ben Ihnchak—Co-Founder at Fuzzy Math
- Jordan Julien—Founder of Hostile Sheep Research & Design
- Tobias Komischke—Director of User Experience at Honeywell
- Amanda Stockwell—President and Principal Consultant, Stockwell Strategy
- Daniel Szuc—Principal and Co-Founder of Apogee Usability Asia Ltd.
- Jo Wong—Principal and Co-Founder of Apogee Usability Asia Ltd.
Q: What are the best ways to discover industry best practices for user experience? And how do you translate best practices into actionable knowledge?—from a UXmatters reader
“I can just imagine a starry-eyed student asking a question like this—hoping we can point everyone to a compendium of best practices,” answers Jordan. “Well, it doesn’t exist. This question has awkwardly stumbled upon the most difficult part of experience design: monitoring the industry for trends and patterns. Nevertheless, I recommend your starting your search on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. But, if you want to choose just one channel of information, I’d definitely start with Twitter. Follow respected industry leaders who actually share ideas. Unfortunately, there are lots of smart people on Twitter who tweet only about themselves.”
“A quick-and-dirty way to find best practices is to look at what organizations that have large UX teams are doing,” replies Ben. “Amazon and Google have massive numbers of UX resources and have put a lot of money on the line to make sure their experiences are good ones, so take a look at the various tools they’re creating. Of course, not everything they’re doing is going to be perfect for your use, but saving some favorite elements and patterns into your own personal pattern library of screenshots and screen recordings is a great first step toward making the patterns that you find accessible and actionable.”
Is this the Right Question?
“Asking How can I identify best practices? might be a better way to put your question if you’re asking about design best practices,” responds Pabini. “There is no single set of design best practices that is applicable everywhere. An optimal design solution depends on the context in which it exists, comprehending the platform on which it runs, the business domain it supports, other solutions that already exist in the marketplace to solve the same problem, and the user for whom you’re creating a solution.
“To identify design best practices, it is essential that you validate your design solutions through usability testing, user research, and analytics—that is, that you validate them in the marketplace. Once you’ve validated a design approach, you can apply it more broadly, and it may become a design best practice.
“On the other hand, if you’re asking about best practices that organizations should follow in creating extraordinary user experiences—that is, about how they should ideally accomplish their work—I refer you my On Good Behavior column titled ‘Design Is a Process, Not a Methodology.’”
“I'm trying to interpret this question in some way other than ‘How do you do UX?’!” exclaims Peter. “I struggle with the concept of best practices. There are design elements that I once would have disdained, but can now see a role for—sometimes a very narrow, specific role, but a role nonetheless. Sliders are no longer an element that I would cross the road to avoid. I just wouldn’t make eye contact or start a conversation with them. Carousels have their place—typically, some distance from me. Comic Sans … I’m still working on that one. Give it time.
“However, I recognize that I’m biased: I tend to regard the idea of touting best practices as intellectually lazy—something designers say to avoid giving a solid justification for a design decision. If the focus of your question is on User Experience as a process rather than on design elements, answering it becomes easier: Figure out what people need to do and what they already understand, then quickly design the best solution you can. Get your users to try it, then make it better.” For further discussion on this topic, Peter recommends his Innovating UX Practice column “Encapsulating User Experience.”