Over the last little while I’ve been hearing a certain term being bandied about that has made me start to cringe. I don’t know when this exactly happened but over the last year the term “Best Practices” has made me pause and think. I’ve come to the realization that there is actually no such thing. I may be opening a can of worms with this claim but let me make my argument before the arguments ensue.
I first caveat this post by stating that when I refer to best practices I’m speaking in the context of Interaction Design. I do not presume to speak for any other disciplines.
So let’s get started.
When those two words are spoken they tend to fall into the category of what I term “follow the leader,” [in which] we tend to hear comments such as, “Everyone else is doing it this way, so I guess it’s a best practice.” Hearing this reminds me of something my mother used to ask me as a child, “If your friends jump off a bridge are you going to jump too?” To which I usually answered no, but in my mind always thought would be fun. But I digress; the typical rationale for follow the leader is that clients don’t want to deviate from competitor experiences for fear of confusing their customer due to a lack of uniformity. This has some validity, but what then differentiates you, the client, from everyone else? What gives you an advantage over your competition? Do we fall into the trap of creating mediocre and mindless experiences? What if the process we are following is actually wrong? Is the term “best practice” actually an industry conspiracy that ensures that no company will try to outdo the other?
I’m not saying that there is no merit in engaging in best practices, especially as an interaction designer where we rely on interaction patterns for like tasks. However, unlike interaction design, these established “best practices” rarely evolve over time to take into consideration unique customer needs, preferences and new contexts of use. In my 13 years of experience in the digital space, I have never witnessed a successful one-size-fits-all approach to solving a problem. Every business’ needs are different and so are the needs of their consumers. So I propose that we get rid of the term “best practices” and exchange it with the term “starting point” and actually listen and learn and adjust our approaches to match both business and consumer needs.
What do you think?