Click here to buy from Amazon.As we just discussed, patterns are often misapplied and used as rote answers to problems. Or they are specifically rejected because they are perceived as having to work in a certain way, and so stifle creativity.

While neither of these statements is true, the next problem with best practices is more insidious.

Avoiding the Heuristic Solution

Good, well-intentioned practitioners of interactive design, like you, apply well-established principles, procedures, and processes in an attempt to seek the right solution.

We all perform heuristic evaluations, apply patterns, copy best practices (or at least “common practices”), and — whenever possible — perform user research to confirm the design is good. Without inspiration or luck, all too often the end design is what could be called the “heuristic solution”—the rote, safe answer is the default result.

And very often this is fine, strictly speaking. There are no serious errors, and satisfaction is within norms. But have you ever found a design to be boring? Or that it only solves that specific issue, so you end up redesigning it for the next version?

A lot of demands are (and should be) placed on interactive designers to meet the brand, to find and meet the users’ greater goals, and to differentiate from an ocean of interactive products competing for attention. Mobile especially is very competitive and has strong drivers for differentiation of your products in the market.

To develop interfaces that delight like this — or must entice users to revisit or share — requires using patterns and best practices as just one input into the design process. The product must be understood holistically, and design options must be developed tangentially in order to discover the multiple ways to approach the solution.

While there is no single method or movement to achieve better results, here are a few concepts which lead in that direction and are worth considering for your design process:

Using User-Centric Execution Principles

The other key problem with interactive design is actually getting the product built. To us, this is the new, more critical “gulf of execution” and the most important problem across the practices of user experience and interactive design.

What are needed are principles of what we can call user-centric execution. They are not yet a process, or a series of fixed procedures. It is possible that they may never be. But like the principles, heuristics, and patterns of design, the idea should be followed and there are best practices. First, let’s discuss the principles.

To encourage successful execution or implementation, UX teams should:

You should not find any of these processes to be burdensome. They should instead make for a much more efficient method in which to develop, and ensure that everyone on the team works hand in hand, at every level.

It is also important to keep this in mind even if you are a developer. Make sure you do not fall into developer traps, and keep yourself true to the design principles.

Patterns are a reference, and a starting point for design. Use them carefully to avoid being overly constrained, and use the principles of modular design to efficiently communicate and build the end product.

Next: Principles of Mobile Design

Discuss & Add

Learn More About This Topic

Avoiding the heuristic solution is a part of a presentation I have posted here:

And I will be doing another O'Reilly Webcast in January (I think) entirely on this topic. Prepare your questions and keep your eyes open for it.

The "Gulf of Execution"

This actually means something else. Don Norman came up with it to mean the gap between user goals and their inability to perform it. The classic example is trying to program the clock on your VCR. If you are old enough to know what a VCR is. Important enough concept that it has a wikipedia page: But it's old-school HCI/HF, so no one knows. I was mean and repurposed it, but I did so intentionally so I'm clever, right?


If you want to add examples (and we occasionally do also) add them here.

Make a new section

Just like this. If, for example, you want to argue about the differences between, say, Tidwell's Vertical Stack, and our general concept of the List, then add a section to discuss. If we're successful, we'll get to make a new edition and will take all these discussions into account.

Successfully Designing with Patterns and Heuristics (last edited 2013-04-08 20:02:22 by shoobe01)