Patterns vs Principles (was good template examples)

22 May 2006 - 10:45am
8 years ago
7 replies
758 reads
jbellis
2005

Mike,
I disagree and have a not-hidden agenda that we as a field are too focused
on principles and practices when, as a user, all I need are solutions to
many problems that have already been solved. This industry has thousands of
pages of principles built into checklists and they simply collect dust.

Many design problems do (!) boil down to mundane engineering (visuals, flow,
HTML) details that high-school kids should not be made to rethink every day,
any more than they should be re-creating table logic, whether the table
control in VB, the table code in MS Word, or the table control sold by
www.Infragistics.com.

Can you give me an example of a Yahoo (or other) pattern that, when divorced
of its solution details, would better serve the collective user experience?

No principles were harmed in the making of this diatribe.

Thanks,
www.jackbellis.com, www.usabilityInstitute.com
----- Original Message -----
From: "Mike Baxter" <mike at saleslogiq.com>
>
> The challenge, therefore, is to develop design patterns that ARE about
> principles and thus are 'one step before the solutions themselves'.
>
> Cheers
>
> Mike
>
>

Comments

22 May 2006 - 11:31am
Jenifer Tidwell
2003

This is a little bit self-serving, I admit, but Mike -- are these more like
what you had in mind?

http://designinginterfaces.com

I wrote these as general patterns, ones that would NOT be tied too closely
to solution details. They describe well-understood design constructs whose
effectiveness derive directly from accepted principles (like strong visual
hierarchy, short navigation paths, etc.). I agree that designers in the
trenches shouldn't have to derive original solutions directly from first
principles -- that's crazy, given how much knowledge there already is in our
field, and most won't do it anyway. It's very useful to have a catalog of
"pre-derived" solutions.

But, to answer Jack's question, I did intend for these to be useful without
the need for implementation details. Unlike the Yahoo! pattern writers, I
wasn't trying to target one single technology (rich Internet applications),
or one company's products. I looked for patterns that worked across
different genres and styles. Therefore, they had to be more general. Not
saying they're better or worse than Yahoo!'s -- just different.

- Jenifer

On 5/22/06, jackbellis.com <jackbellis at hotmail.com> wrote:
>
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
> Mike,
> I disagree and have a not-hidden agenda that we as a field are too focused
> on principles and practices when, as a user, all I need are solutions to
> many problems that have already been solved. This industry has thousands
> of
> pages of principles built into checklists and they simply collect dust.
>
> Many design problems do (!) boil down to mundane engineering (visuals,
> flow,
> HTML) details that high-school kids should not be made to rethink every
> day,
> any more than they should be re-creating table logic, whether the table
> control in VB, the table code in MS Word, or the table control sold by
> www.Infragistics.com.
>
> Can you give me an example of a Yahoo (or other) pattern that, when
> divorced
> of its solution details, would better serve the collective user
> experience?
>
> No principles were harmed in the making of this diatribe.
>
> Thanks,
> www.jackbellis.com, www.usabilityInstitute.com
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Mike Baxter" <mike at saleslogiq.com>
> >
> > The challenge, therefore, is to develop design patterns that ARE about
> > principles and thus are 'one step before the solutions themselves'.
> >
> > Cheers
> >
> > Mike
>

---------------------------------------
Jenifer Tidwell
jenifer.tidwell at gmail.com
http://designinginterfaces.com
http://jtidwell.net

22 May 2006 - 1:17pm
jbellis
2005

Jennifer's URL has been on my Favorites list for quite some time now. The free content on the site represents a veritable endowment to UI folks, not self-serving at all. I know of one company that still sequesters such designs in the expensive "gold" version of their offering.

www.jackbellis.com, www.usabilityInstitute.com
----- Original Message -----
From: Jenifer Tidwell
To: jackbellis.com
Cc: ixda
Sent: Monday, May 22, 2006 1:31 PM
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Patterns vs Principles (was good template examples)

This is a little bit self-serving, I admit, but Mike -- are these more like what you had in mind?

http://designinginterfaces.com

23 May 2006 - 12:43am
Mike Baxter
2004

This thread has reminded me just how great it is to be working in a
discipline as rich and multi-layered as design! You start the discussion
assumming a common frame of reference only to discover, as the discussion
progresses that we are actually talking about subtly but significantly
different things.

Jack, you say that 'as a field [we] are too focused
on principles and practices when, as a user, all I need are solutions to
many problems that have already been solved. This industry has thousands of
pages of principles built into checklists and they simply collect dust.

[and suggest] that many design problems do (!) boil down to mundane
engineering (visuals, flow,
HTML) details that high-school kids should not be made to rethink every day
...

Okay, at one level I couldn't agree more. I seem to recall discussions on
this list suggesting that it is not helpful for designers to be inventing
new designs for standard controls - checkboxes and radio buttons, for
example. The best advice, in this case is use the standard control - we
certainly don't need a set of guiding principles.

But coming to Jenifer's (excellent!) patterns (buy the book - Designing
Interfaces!), there are many that describe a set of principles but do not
specify the solution details. Take Global Navigation, for example -
http://designinginterfaces.com/Global_Navigation. Designing a navigation
scheme for an entire site doesn't boil down to mundane engineering details -
it has got to be divorced from its solution details.

A couple of examples that I'm working on (for e-commerce):
The product-specific landing page (the page you arrive at in an e-commerce
site after clicking a Adword link). The pattern for such a page is not
complicated - identify the product (model name/number) and show the product,
price, whether it's in stock, delivery cost, delivery duration and add a buy
button - all above the fold. Reviewing top retail sites in the UK, however,
revealed that most missed one or more of these key details - hence the need
for the pattern.

Even more complex is feature filtering (or guided/facetted navigation) where
customers can 'home-in' on the type of product they are looking for by
selecting its attributes (e.g. a toaster for 2 or 4 slices). This has only
recently moved into mainstream in e-commerce and the mistakes being made are
too numerous to mention here. But by analysing these mistakes and seeing
what imact they have on the online customer experience, we can scope out the
range of anti-patterns to be avoided
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antipattern). A design pattern is a
specification of the principles to be adhered to in order to avoid these
mistakes.

But they do need to be principles! My clients wouldn't thank me for
suggesting that the details of their e-commerce pages should be exactly that
same as all their competitors!

Cheers

Mike Baxter
www.saleslogiq.com

23 May 2006 - 8:55am
jbellis
2005

Mike,
I added your principles for landing pages to my Function Tree page:
http://usabilityinstitute.com/resources/functionTree.htm#landingpage
Let me know if you'd like a more traceable credit than simply initials. The
distinction between principles and practices/patterns is probably one of
degrees, corresponding to how much interpretation a concept is subject to.

The discussion is at a point where I actually started tracing back
through the archived thread to figure out what problem we're really trying
to solve. I'll take that as evidence that we've reduced the discussion from
substance to semantics and I'll defer to your point... yes we need
principles.

www.jackbellis.com, www.usabilityInstitute.com
----- Original Message -----
From: "Mike Baxter" <mike at saleslogiq.com>
> But they do need to be principles! My clients wouldn't thank me for
> suggesting that the details of their e-commerce pages should be exactly
that
> same as all their competitors!
>
> Cheers
>
> Mike Baxter
> www.saleslogiq.com
>
>

23 May 2006 - 9:37am
jbellis
2005

Andrea,
While Mike and I were running wildly in the other direction, your question was directly answered by a May 10th article on http://www.boxesandarrows.com, The Guided Wireframe Narrative for Rich Internet Applications. It's a low-tech PowerPoint solution that won't wow everyone but it is a direct answer nonetheless. And of course if it's in PPT, you can probably do it in Word, Excel, Access, or Notepad for that matter, eh? :)

Another somewhat related article currently on their home page, Know Your Place, suggests a more automated option, leveraging re-use in either Visio or Adobe Illustrator.
Regards,
www.jackbellis.com, www.usabilityInstitute.com
Currently in my work as an Instructional Designer we
are using Word docs from the content authors, which we
then edit to add in all the interaction and animation
details before handing it off for Flash production.
The templates we have are a bit clunky so I'm looking
for some more elegant examples if anyone is willing to
share or point me towards resources.

The content is educational and is presented as text
plus play-through animations, click-through
animations, interactive animations, and
interactive-click-throughs.

Thanks,
Andrea Kulkarni
Instructional Designer

23 May 2006 - 10:00am
Dan Saffer
2003

I hope all of you interested in this topic have been reading the
discussion about patterns on Luke Wroblewski's blog. Good stuff.

http://www.lukew.com/ff/entry.asp?347
http://www.lukew.com/ff/entry.asp?348

Dan

23 May 2006 - 10:06am
Jenifer Tidwell
2003

Aw, Dan, you beat me to it. ;-)

- Jenifer

On Tue, 23 May 2006, Dan Saffer wrote:

> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
> I hope all of you interested in this topic have been reading the
> discussion about patterns on Luke Wroblewski's blog. Good stuff.
>
> http://www.lukew.com/ff/entry.asp?347
> http://www.lukew.com/ff/entry.asp?348
>
> Dan
>
>
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