Should You Follow the Latest UI Design Trends? Or Stick With UX Best Practices?
When you’re designing a new feature, it’s best to start from the place where others have successfully solved a similar design problem.
Most often, this requires navigating various UI patterns websites, searching for the latest design trends, consulting your list of UX principles and best practices, and finally finding a way to integrate everything into a design direction.
In some cases, you need a few more steps to justify the design direction you picked to a manager or a client.
Not only this is time consuming, it also leads to conflicting directions in several cases: some design trends and popular UI patterns violate well established fundamental UX principles, so a common practice may not necessarily be the best practice.
In other words, just because a design has lots of likes on Dribbble, doesn’t mean it the best solution.
Just because a design looks great, doesn’t mean it works well.
And just because some apps are using it, doesn’t mean you should use it, too.
A common practice isn’t always the best practice.
So how do you know when to use a popular design pattern instead of following a well established UX principle?
Let’s take, for instance, the pull-to-refresh action popularized by Twitter, and later adopted by many other apps.
By UX standards, the pull-to-refresh is a bad practice, because the action is neither obvious nor intuitive. A traditional solution would be a refresh button/icon on the toolbar.
But as more popular apps integrated it, billions of people users used it, and it went from a pattern, to a trend, and later became a common practice.
So, if you have a list of results, should you use that design pattern (pull-to-refresh) in your app?
If your app screen shows a list of results sorted in reverse chronological order (most recent first), and is updated at a very high frequency (1–5 seconds), that pattern should work for you.
If, on the other hand, you’re showing a static list of results sorted by relevance, that pattern is the wrong one!
Before using any UI pattern or design trend, ask yourself the following questions:
- Which design problem is this pattern solving? What are the different attributes of that problem?
- How does it compare to other design patterns that solve the same problem?
- How many popular apps (Top 100) have adopted the same pattern?
When in doubt, choose obvious and intuitive over cool and trendy.
And if you want to experiment with some cool and trendy designs, prototype it against the traditional solution, test both with users, and make an informed decision based on real feedback.
This seems like a lot of work to find the right patterns, to keep up to date with the latest design trends, and to remember UX best practices, to solve a design problem for a specific user task.
But it’s necessary for good design that you know enough of them, and that you know which ones to use in which situation.
That’s why I’ve been recently spending a lot of time curating, analyzing, and synthesizing the top design trends, patterns and practices out there, to create a collection of UX guidelines that I can use to design for various user tasks.
Today, I am thrilled to announce the launch of UI Recipes.
Every week, we pick a specific user task (sign up, search filtering, eCommerce, lists, etc.), we analyze the latest design trends and best practices across the top mobile and web apps, and then we turn our usability analysis into actionable UI guidelines for designing a similar task that we send out every Wednesday at 10 am.
This serves as an educational platform for non-designers to learn UI design by following the best practices from those popular apps, and for designers to quickly find various ways of solving a design problem for a given user task, reducing the time needed to do the same research and analysis on their own.
We are also working on a Sketch plugin that enables real-time search/insert of those patterns and trends, along with Sketch UI kits containing design ingredients from each recipe, to allow quick re-creation of similar UI recipes.
Our first UI recipes has been released today, and provides UX guidelines for designing search filtering based on a usability analysis of dozens of the top 100 iOS apps.
You can get that UI recipe here for FREE.