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Are Design Patterns an Anti-pattern? – Boxes and Arrows: The design behind the design

Are Design Patterns an Anti-pattern? 

by Stephen Turbek

In a world of limited resources, code beats pictures.

Design patterns are generally considered a good thing, but do they actually help run a user experience group? As a user experience group manager and an observer (and sponsor) of design pattern exercises, I’ve come to have serious questions about their actual utility. It’s not that design pattern libraries are bad, but that in a world of limited resources, it is it is not clear that the investment is worth it. Fortunately, there is a better approach: reaching outside the design group to solve the whole problem.

An interaction design pattern is a “general, reusable solution” “to common usability or accessibility problems”. They usually consist of pictures and descriptions of the best way to handle a GUI design element, such as a date picker. Libraries of them are found online (see below) and in many institutions with a user experience practice. Like all tools, they exist to solve a problem; but what is the problem?

They are generally said to help:

  • instruct junior user experience people
  • save time of documenting design details in every project
  • make collaboration with developers easier
  • encourage consistency

The case against design patterns

Pattern libraries have laudable goals, but in practice, design patterns do not support how teams actually work. Practically, the pattern approach assumes that the users:

  • know (and remember 3 months later) that the pattern library exists
  • quickly find the pattern that they need
  • know how to interpret the language
  • know when to apply a particular pattern and how much they can deviate
  • have the time and motivation to continue documenting ideas

Continue reading this article at: Are Design Patterns an Anti-pattern? – Boxes and Arrows: The design behind the design.