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Principles of pattern use

There are good ways to use patterns as you design a user experience. Patterns are basically a collection of design opinions, which means there is lots of room for conflict and confusion when designing. So it’s not a bad idea to use patterns in a principled way.

1. Trust the pattern by default

You will be tempted to second-guess and refine patterns after every use. Don’t. It will only slow you down. Assume patterns are well-considered and represents the best current opinion on a subject. No pattern is universal, but there is probably a way to make it work for your case.

2. Break the pattern to help the user

Patterns are like cookie cutters: they keep stuff the same. That sameness keeps the mountain of concepts” manageable for both you and your users. But every now and then following a pattern would make things harder for your user. In these cases, and only these cases, you should make an exception.

3. Be on the hunt for patterns

If you’re not using a pattern to solve a problem, you’re thinking. Thinking uses up time and precious calories. Put design explorations in a place where problems can be compared to one another. Find similarities in solutions, debate the best strategy with your team, and then publish a pattern as soon as possible.

Summary

Principles of pattern use

How to use a pattern well

  1. Trust the pattern by default
  2. Break the pattern to help the user
  3. Be on the hunt for patterns

See also

Principles of pattern design


Content design


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