Anti-patterns are a common design problem where work from another project or area is applied towards a current project, but something goes wrong in the new application. UX Designer Sarah Kahn recently wrote a compelling article about the world of UX Anti-Patterns. Kahn describes an anti-pattern as, “a frequently used design pattern that either outright doesn’t work or is counter-productive. You’ll see them in web applications and websites, anywhere where a user needs to perform an action in some way, whether it’s logging in, providing information, or reading information in order to make decisions.”

It is common among busy, overwhelmed or lazy designers to mimic the features that appear to be working well in other formats. It is certainly okay to find inspiration from others, but well-designed apps need to be customized to the exact needs of a business and audience. User experience design isn’t about universal principles of usability, it is about creating custom web applications to create the best actual experience for the people who use your specific mobile or web application.

As further proof of why one-size-fits-all designing is a bad idea, take the example of a recent study by Harvard University. Kahn explains that the study, “resulted in a game that could guess your age by your mouse clicking speed (I took it, it was spot on!) Users have different needs by age, physical ability, culture, and more. That’s why canned solutions can so often backfire.” Anti-patterns are the most normal cause of such backfires.

So how can you be on the lookout for anti-patterns in your products? Common signs of anti-patterns include:

  • users dropping off a page

  • random clicking

  • repeated up and down scrolling

Common anti-patterns include:

  • clickable content that doesn’t appear clickable

  • ‘hover and cover’ dropdown menus where the menu only appears when the mouse covers it

  • inconsistent context - having separate features on a site act differently from each other

  • cramming content into a tight area (not using blank space well)

  • pogo stick navigation - Kahn explains, “Pogo stick navigation is when the user is required to go down a level or two to perform an action, come back up to the top, then go back down again.”

  • sending users to a destination other than expected by a link or action

UX design relies on original design and development, as well as rigorous UX and QA testing to make sure that both business and user get the most out of a mobile application. What are some examples of anti-patterns that you’ve seen, and what are your strategies for avoiding them in your own projects?

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