UX designs, if done right, provide competitive advantages that help you boost your ROI. However, the term is overused and often leave designers overwhelmed. You should therefore understand the concept clearly, instead of following the UX best practices blindly and determine when you need to adhere to them and when to close your eyes.
User experience or UX is perhaps one of the most sought-after and at the same time daunting term for web designers. The advantages of UX design are numerous and too lucrative to overlook, the likes of which range from improved website performance and credibility to reduced development cost and increased exposure. But at the same time, the term is daunting for many designers.
For one thing, the term is overused. Besides, designers usually feel overwhelmed with the idea that their user experience fail to deliver what was promised. Worst still, some people makes the whole concept confusing especially when it comes to UX best practice. But what are these best practices? Is it a set of web design techniques that are supposed to make your website more effective? Or maybe they are the techniques used by “someone” who have been successful with their web design experiment? But if it is so, aren’t you just following someone blindly without even understanding the whole UX design concept and principles?
Therefore, it is sometime best to close your eyes and ignore whatever they tell you about UX best practices. That said, you need to adhere to them at times as well.
Do You Really Need to Follow UX Best Practice?
More often than not you will find many brands breaking the web design conventions related to user experience and still getting the desired results. For example, in one of their studies the Nielsen Norman Group shows how Bucknell University broke the UX best practice with its unconventional responsive redesign and yet caught users’ attention effectively, creating a positive impression about the university’s academic quality.
This is not a standalone example. There are many other instances where brands mercilessly break best practices without even affecting their bottom lines.
Another example is from eCommerce websites. The UX best practices for online stores is to display 12 to 20 products per page. However, leading eCommerce brands like Amazon and Etsy.com are extending that number to something between 16 and 45 products per page. In terms of UX best practice, they are perhaps not doing it right, but when it comes to sales and revenues you can hardly question these brands.
Moreover, if best practices are a set of established techniques that are meant to make your business website more effective then all these popular online stores should have been replicas of each other. But that, as we all know, isn’t the case. While some brands showcase product reviews and ratings others don’t. Again, some sites are opting for infinity scrolling and others still follow above the fold. So what’s going on here? And what should you do?
Ignorance is the best policy, well sometimes…
The general belief is that UX designers should adhere to best practices. But there is more to it. First thing first, you need to understand if the best practice is of any value to your users instead of following it blindly. Certain things that works in one industry may not work for another. In addition, there are many other reasons why best practices don’t always work.
You Can’t Always Predict What Users Will Do
One major issue with UX is that users at times say something and do something else. For examples, studies indicate that users now have a multi-tab mania i.e. opening items in new tabs especially when performing comparison shopping. This is one of the reasons behind the best practice of opening external links in new tabs. But then not all users are in favor of it. According to an A/B test conducted by Etsy, 70 percent more people left the website when product page opened in a new tab.
These UX best practices are usually established by asking people what they would like to see in a website. But then you cannot always depend on such research. Remember the legendary New Coke failure, a market research mistake due to which Coca-Cola lost millions of dollars? Walmart too lost $1.85 billion in sales by listening to what their customers say.
As one of the most trusted Utah web design service providers, we often tell our clients not to blindly believe a survey when it comes to best practices. Users often make false predictions, albeit confident regarding their future behavior. This is more commonplace when the design is new and unfamiliar as the difference between imagining something and using it in real is typically huge. Worst still, human preferences are mostly unstable.
That said, we are not asking you to discard what your customers are saying, but it is important to know how to interpret what they are saying.
When to Adhere to UX Best Practices
Despite what we have said so far, there is no denying that UX best practices deliver a repeatable process with which customers are already familiar with. This allows businesses to find a faster, better, flexible, and cheaper solution to cater to their user needs. Incorporate good UX best practices therefore necessary especially when it comes to building a website. People love to see elements that they are familiar and comfortable to interact with.
But sometimes you also need to know how to break the rules and when to break the rules, especially when building a product. Why? Because as we have mentioned, users cannot always imagine exactly how they will use a product until and unless they start using it in real life. One example would that be of the now popular Aeron office chairs. While they received really poor ratings during their early tests when the product wasn’t completely ready, they became the bestselling and iconic chairs in the world of office furniture.
Look Beyond Design Trends
A design trend is just a trend. It’s not a best practice and it is more likely to be replaced by something else tomorrow. The hamburger menu, for example is a popular design trend for 2015-16. More and more designers are hiding and simplifying their navigation under a hamburger menu to provide a better user experience on mobile devices. However, industry experts like the Nielsen Norman Group, TechCrunch, and The Atlantic etc. have voted against it, stating that it is UX-antipattern.
Therefore you cannot call a hamburger menu a best practice. In contrast, having the word “Menu” in your website is at times a better option. This study indicates that the word “Menu” generates 20 percent more clicks by unique visitors compared to hamburger menus.
The goal is to be responsible when implementing UX best practices. Be updated about the current trends and what’s driving them, but also remember that they could be a passing fad. Will your users really find it valuable? Will the change enhance their experience and interaction with your brand? Think from user engagement point of view and still if you think it is worth your time and effort, just go ahead.
PS. If you need an eye-opening experience when evaluating your design’s general usability, we are able to show what people do on your website without any group testing. Check it out here: UsabilityTools Session Recording.
About the author:
“Ryan Camomile is a co-founder and the CEO of Infogenix, a web design, programming, and marketing company based in Orem, Utah. The company began in 1998 with Ryan as the sole web and graphic designer, but he also became interested in AdWords and Search Engine Optimization when he realized that there was more to developing a site for success on the internet than having an excellent design. He has now been an expert in the Design, SEO and PPC fields for over 12 years. He uses his diverse experience and unique perspective to help his clients’ projects and ideas to flourish.”