Ever had a great idea for your site? A new way the menu could work, a new layout for the pages, a helpful pop up, something custom and a bit out of the box. Then, you show it to your web designer and with a quick glance and a cutting comment they say, “well, that’s not best practice”.
And… that’s it. You can’t question because you don’t understand what they’re talking about. You’re stuck, right?
What You Bring To The Table
None of us like to look stupid. But, let’s make an obvious observations here. You are paying a professional consultant to fill in a gap in your knowledge and skills. But, you bring things to the table too. You know your business and your goals, they know their skill. Together, that’s a perfect mix to make things happen! But, if you get intimidated and think that you don’t have anything to offer, they have a hand tied behind their back. They will have to make guesses about what’s best for you based on incomplete knowledge.
If they don’t want to hear your contribution and answer your questions, they aren’t right for you and you need to find someone else pronto.
With that said, even a really great developer/designer/professional-person will sometimes say “best practice”. What’s it mean?
What Is Best Practice?
Best Practice basically means one of two things. First, it might mean something that works well based on experience, possibly anectdotal or preferably empirical. This kind of best practice keeps you from making silly mistakes and having to reinvent the wheel every time you do something. Looking both ways before you cross the road, always having a Contact Us page on your site, drinking single origin coffee, these are great best practices.
There is a second, more ominous kind of best practice. It’s uttered by a developer that doesn’t want to take the time to consider what you’re asking for. It means, “I don’t like that, personally” or “that sounds hard” or “I’m too busy”. It means, “I don’t want to talk any more about this and I know you don’t understand this stuff so saying best practice will make you stop asking”.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask
So, don’t be afraid to ask why something is best practice. If you want to do a new mega menu and your developer says, “that’s an old school way to do a menu” (hint: just another way to say that it’s not best practice), you can push back. You say, “oh really, why have people moved away from that?” Either they have a great piece of research to back up their claim, a personal story to share where it was a bad idea, or they have to back track. This example is a true story in my case where dev claimed something was “old school” for no particular reason.
Asking doesn’t mean you know everything or that you’re trying to be difficult. You’re just trying to collaborate to get to the best solutions and need parterners that can dialogue with you to get there. Value their contribution, but make sure they are valuing yours too.
What You Can Do
A few practical suggestions that I’ve found helpful. First, if you are going to work with a pro regularly, pick someone you trust. Be really choosy, interview multiple people, ask tough questions, all of that stuff. If you find someone you really trust, you won’t need to wonder if they are feeding you a load of BS with “best practice”.
Second, choose your battles. You don’t have to push back every time you hear that something isn’t a good idea because it isn’t best practice. If it isn’t that important, consider just letting it go.
Third (this one’s from my wife who deals with developers and UX people daily), explain your thought process. Say, “well here’s the problem that I’m trying to solve and I thought my idea might help. Do you have any other ideas how to solve this problem?” This is great because it forces them to consider your idea more seriously and might actually prompt them to give you an even better idea!
And, that’s it, some of my best thoughts on dealing with the terrible “best practice” brick wall. When have you faced this issue, whether with dev, your Fedex rep, your accountant, or anyone else? What are the best ways you’ve found to deal with it? Let me know in the comments. And, as always, thanks for reading!