Best Practices vs. Patterns

30 Jun 2008 - 8:10pm
6 years ago
9 replies
885 reads
Matthew Zuckman
2008

People in my office seem to be obsessed with "best practices" lately -
a notion that seems a bit ethereal to me. After all, splash pages,
lead-based paint, burning witches, and other such concepts are now
obsolete (or at least frowned upon). In the past, I have tried to
steer people towards the idea that certain interfaces or features may
be a "standard practice," but I am wondering if patterns are now the
best evaluation tool.

Any thoughts?

./matthew

Comments

1 Jul 2008 - 3:39am
Melvin Jay Kumar
2007

Best Practices / Patterns and the likes are important part of the
designers toolbox.

But the Designer needs to understand when its is best to use the best
practice or the pattern based on the context of the work /
organization / etc...etc...

So ultimately they are just another set of tools for the designer to use.

Regards,

Jay Kumar

On 7/1/08, Matthew Zuckman <matt at blueorange.com> wrote:
> People in my office seem to be obsessed with "best practices" lately - a
> notion that seems a bit ethereal to me. After all, splash pages, lead-based
> paint, burning witches, and other such concepts are now obsolete (or at
> least frowned upon). In the past, I have tried to steer people towards the
> idea that certain interfaces or features may be a "standard practice," but I
> am wondering if patterns are now the best evaluation tool.
>
> Any thoughts?
>
>
> ./matthew
>
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
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>

1 Jul 2008 - 7:33am
Eric Swenson
2008

What the others said. And some more.

The notion of "best practices" is not new or ethereal, at least not in
the realm of design management, project management and related
disciplines. They constantly evolve and the term serves as an umbrella
for specific pedagogies. I like to spice it up a bit. In addition to
discussing best practices, I like to talk about better practices,
worse & worst practices, boring practices and dirty practices. Because
business rhetoric is boring.

In the world of IxD/IA/UX, the establishment of best practices (vs. no
practices or sloppy ones) seems implicit - especially within the
context of the codification of practices via literature (print & web)
and rhetoric (conferences, mailing lists, journals, beer talk, etc.).
In other words, most of the books that have been published on web
design, IA (hello, authors!) and so on over the ages are essentially
about the establishment or formation of "best practices." It's an old
term that can be applied to various disciplines.

Usability testing (in all its various forms) is a "best practice" vs.
no usability testing (or "practice"). Use of Mental Models might turn
out to be an ineffective best practice in a few years (and maybe
not)... Lazy implementations under the cover of "Agile" (in other
words, "fake Agile") could be "F-d practices." Joe Blow's Best
Practice might be My Nightmare. Oscar Madison's nightmare (uh, say,
establishing baseline PM procedures and actually following them) might
reflect Felix Unger's idea of a best practice. And so it goes.....

Within the process of interface design, I don't know if you can apply
the term "best practice" to the actual design output. For example, I
wouldn't use the term to describe design product. I wouldn't say, "The
use of left-aligned CSS pull-down menus is a best practice," in
general. (I might call it a common practice.) But I might say that
your use of design research best practices helped your UX person to
determine that the use of a left-aligned menu was best for your
client's user base.... I would never say that Johnny Quest's habit of
dancing to Culture Club songs while prototyping is a bad practice vs.
Race Bannon's practice of doing 100 squats and eating raw eggs with
jalapenos and whistling "Dixie" whilst sketching on his Wacom....

That's my take, anyhow.

-- Eric Swenson

++++++++++++++++++++++++++
: eric swenson
: swensonia inc
: eswenson at swensonia.com

On Jun 30, 2008, at 9:10 PM, Matthew Zuckman wrote:

> People in my office seem to be obsessed with "best practices" lately
> - a notion that seems a bit ethereal to me. After all, splash pages,
> lead-based paint, burning witches, and other such concepts are now
> obsolete (or at least frowned upon). In the past, I have tried to
> steer people towards the idea that certain interfaces or features
> may be a "standard practice," but I am wondering if patterns are now
> the best evaluation tool.
>
> Any thoughts?
>
>
> ./matthew
>
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help

1 Jul 2008 - 8:42am
jrrogan
2005

The original quest appeared to be: whats the best way to design, "Best
Practices" VS "Patterns", (I assume this meant some form of Patterns
Library")?

I believe "Best Practices" would drive the "Patterns", thus they are not
mutually exclusive.

Best Practices are contextual, meaning what is the whole of the design, and
how do these "Practices" aide the design. Interactions which in isolation
may seem counter intuitive, can be the best choice given the surrounding
circumstances, (and vice versa).

"Best Practices" not executed within a cohesive/well planned "Pattern
Library", (which is also a "Best Practice"), are nothing more then a grab
bag of design concepts, which by chance may or may not work well together.

Also I wouldn't consider Patterns an "evaluation tool", hopefully you come
up with the patterns upfront and utilize them in your designs.

Rich
--
Joseph Rich Rogan
President UX/UI Inc.
http://www.jrrogan.com

On 6/30/08, Matthew Zuckman <matt at blueorange.com> wrote:
>
> People in my office seem to be obsessed with "best practices" lately - a
> notion that seems a bit ethereal to me. After all, splash pages, lead-based
> paint, burning witches, and other such concepts are now obsolete (or at
> least frowned upon). In the past, I have tried to steer people towards the
> idea that certain interfaces or features may be a "standard practice," but I
> am wondering if patterns are now the best evaluation tool.
>
> Any thoughts?
>
>
> ./matthew
>
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

--
Joseph Rich Rogan
President UX/UI Inc.
http://www.jrrogan.com

1 Jul 2008 - 1:31pm
David Gilmore
2008

Two things strike me as missing from this discussion:-
- who is the 'best practices' list for?
- at what level of granularity is the list useful?

My experience makes me feel that practitioners do not need lists of
best practices in order to do their work - but they may use it to
explain to non-practitioners why they are doing what they are doing.
For example, 'why are you doing ethnographic research?' ...
'because it is best practice'. Patterns, by contrast, seem much
more likely to be a tool used by the designer in the course of
design.

Secondly, does interaction design benefit from a best practices list
at the level of saying that 'ethnographic research', 'usability
testing', 'mental models' or 'personas' are all best practice.
Or do we benefit more from having the internal dialogue about what is
best practice in ethnographic research, or in persona creation?

Personally, I would like to see this latter discussion taking place -
what makes for best practice in usability testing, say, and how do I
help others identify it and do it? Of course, I raise this question
from the point of view of someone who is managing these activities,
more than doing them.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=30922

2 Jul 2008 - 12:57pm
ambroselittle
2008

The notion of patterns and practices is fairly developed in the software
engineering field. The idea of formalized software dev patterns originates
from Christopher Alexander's series of books on the same subject applied to
physical architecture. Back quite a while ago now, some folks saw the
applicability to software and began popularizing the idea through books like
software *Design Patterns*, *Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture
*, etc.

It's worth noting that "patterns" here has a specialized sense based on
Alexander's view. The general idea is that a pattern is a *common *(not
innovative) way to build something to address a particular set of problems
in a particular context with the ultimate goal of building something that is
*alive* and *whole*, as Alexander put it in his *Timeless Way of Building*.
This is, to varying degrees, what you'll see in things like Yahoo's library,
as well as welie.com, Tidwell's *Designing Interfaces*, ui-patterns.com, et
al.

In addition to being a source of inspiration and general reference, patterns
can also facilitate high-level design discussion. As in philosophy, the
names of patterns can be used as short-hand jargon to reference complex
ideas and help folks come to a solution faster via a body of knowledge
expressed through shared language.

I'm curious as to how UX pros use patterns. I realize there is a fair bit
(more) pride in being creative/original in the design space than in
engineering, but I think the general idea of using patterns to inform design
and provide good constraints is a good thing.

As for best practices, I see those as more granular than, say, "do
ethnographical research." I'd say it would be particular ways, techniques,
methodologies that have been shown to generally produce good results. But
they are more focused on *how* you do things rather than the end result,
which is I think more the focus of patterns.

It's not, as I see it, an either-or (either patterns or practices) but a
both-and. They're both resources on which designers can draw to help inform
their work.

--Ambrose

2 Jul 2008 - 5:47pm
Filipe Levi
2008

> As for best practices, I see those as more granular than, say, "do
> ethnographical research." I'd say it would be particular ways, techniques,
> methodologies that have been shown to generally produce good results. But
> they are more focused on *how* you do things rather than the end result,
> which is I think more the focus of patterns.
>

I agree. As an example, a *pattern *would warn us not to offer more than
seven menu options at a time, while a good *practice *would suggest us to
have a pair of users in each card sorting session in order to incite
consensus and minimize analysis effort.

Regards,

Filipe Levi
User researcher at CESAR
UXnet ambassador in Brazil
+55 81 99240791 | mobile
+55 81 31345131 | office
filipelevi.com

6 Jul 2008 - 2:04pm
Christian Crumlish
2006

In agency/consulting work "best practices" also comes up sometimes as a
euphemism for "we have no research to support this, but our designers tell
us they know it works from experience."

(good discussion of patterns too - I was going to jump in to note that a
pattern may not be a best practice - it may be just a common practice)

-x-

On Wed, Jul 2, 2008 at 3:47 PM, Filipe Levi <filipelevi at gmail.com> wrote:

> > As for best practices, I see those as more granular than, say, "do
> > ethnographical research." I'd say it would be particular ways,
> techniques,
> > methodologies that have been shown to generally produce good results.
> But
> > they are more focused on *how* you do things rather than the end result,
> > which is I think more the focus of patterns.
>

--
Christian Crumlish http://xianlandia.com
Yahoo! pattern detective http://design.yahoo.com
Yahoo! Developer Network evangelist http://open.yahoo.com
IA Institute director of technology http://iainstitute.org

6 Jul 2008 - 7:02pm
Jarod Tang
2007

Hi Ambrose and Guys,

Here, we should notice, that design pattern's drawbacks becomes more
and more obvious to the software development community, the reason is
design always/easy to lead to unnessary complex by design pattern
thinking (many guys argue that's because the software designer is not
a design pattern master, but maybe not). Instead, some guys provide
alternative ways for better software design:
1. refactor to pattern. means first dont start from pattern, and then
refactor the pattern after we have a decided global design;
2. related to 1/, code smells are more creative. instead of let
designers aware of what's good, it's more creative and productive to
aware what's the smells of bad design while it comes out

from above, we know, design pattern more like a checking/fix skill
than a stimulation of design, from my own design experience i also
find it's true in both software design and interaction design.

Cheers,
-- Jarod

On Thu, Jul 3, 2008 at 1:57 AM, J. Ambrose Little
<ambrose at aspalliance.com> wrote:
> The notion of patterns and practices is fairly developed in the software
> engineering field. The idea of formalized software dev patterns originates
> from Christopher Alexander's series of books on the same subject applied to
> physical architecture. Back quite a while ago now, some folks saw the
> applicability to software and began popularizing the idea through books like
> software *Design Patterns*, *Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture
> *, etc.
>
> It's worth noting that "patterns" here has a specialized sense based on
> Alexander's view. The general idea is that a pattern is a *common *(not
> innovative) way to build something to address a particular set of problems
> in a particular context with the ultimate goal of building something that is
> *alive* and *whole*, as Alexander put it in his *Timeless Way of Building*.
> This is, to varying degrees, what you'll see in things like Yahoo's library,
> as well as welie.com, Tidwell's *Designing Interfaces*, ui-patterns.com, et
> al.
>
> In addition to being a source of inspiration and general reference, patterns
> can also facilitate high-level design discussion. As in philosophy, the
> names of patterns can be used as short-hand jargon to reference complex
> ideas and help folks come to a solution faster via a body of knowledge
> expressed through shared language.
>
> I'm curious as to how UX pros use patterns. I realize there is a fair bit
> (more) pride in being creative/original in the design space than in
> engineering, but I think the general idea of using patterns to inform design
> and provide good constraints is a good thing.
>
> As for best practices, I see those as more granular than, say, "do
> ethnographical research." I'd say it would be particular ways, techniques,
> methodologies that have been shown to generally produce good results. But
> they are more focused on *how* you do things rather than the end result,
> which is I think more the focus of patterns.
>
> It's not, as I see it, an either-or (either patterns or practices) but a
> both-and. They're both resources on which designers can draw to help inform
> their work.
>
> --Ambrose
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

--
Designing for better life style.

http://jarodtang.spaces.live.com/
http://jarodtang.blogspot.com

7 Jul 2008 - 8:09am
ambroselittle
2008

On Sun, Jul 6, 2008 at 8:02 PM, Jarod Tang <jarod.tang at gmail.com> wrote:

> from above, we know, design pattern more like a checking/fix skill
> than a stimulation of design, from my own design experience i also
> find it's true in both software design and interaction design.
>

Hi Jarod,

That is one approach to using patterns, and no doubt there are those
who abuse patterns.

However, I don't think that some folks' tendency to overengineer and
attribute that to patterns has much to do with the nature or best use of
patterns themselves. And actually I think patterns may be even more useful
in interface design as they are more akin to patterns in physical
architecture in as much as they are focused on human, experiential aspects
and less on internal implementation details.

--Ambrose

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