What is a design pattern?
As UX designers we’re challenged to sift through hundreds of potential interactions to create great interactive experiences. With design patterns you can establish consistency for the user experience and get to better designs faster.
As UX designers, we approach designing interfaces by using design patterns.
Design patterns are common solutions for common design problems.
Patterns in UX are reusable solutions to common usability problems. When designers solve problems, they come up with solutions
Design patterns are documented interactions and best practices for how and when to use the correct user interface element. Design patterns typically consist of the following elements:
- Interaction and behavior,.
- Best practices.
Depending on the pattern library, the pattern may have both visual and technical specifications if they’ve been developed into reusable components that engineers can use when developing the experience.
Patterns establish consistency for interactions and sets expectations on how the user should interact with an interface element. The other element of design patterns is the visual design. Oftentimes, design patterns are a subtle reflection of the brand.
Why are design patterns useful?
Design patterns are reusable design solutions for common design problems. They document how interaction should work for interface elements. In UX, there are some key advantages to using patterns.
- The first is that patterns help create usable interfaces. As UX designers, we use patterns to keep our experiences in alignment with common paradigms that users expect. Design solutions become patterns because they work in various contexts. When common patterns are broken, this could lead to frustration, and an unusable experience. If you’ve ever tried to pull open a door that says push, you may have experienced this firsthand. Patterns have typically gone through rounds of usability tests to ensure that the interaction works as expected for users. If you’re creating your own pattern library, you’ll want to wireframe the interactions you want, prototype it, and usability test it to make sure it’s usable by your users before it becomes codified into a component.
- The second reason is that patterns help us design faster. Patterns enable us to focus on bigger experience problems, rather than trying to design something that already has a common functionality.
- The third reason is that patterns speed up development. If you’re working with a design pattern library that has been componentized, it’s much easier to use patterns that have been built, so engineers can easily pick up the code and use it. Even if you don’t have components, there are code libraries for engineers, and they can use an off-the-shelf version of the pattern to implement easily. Sometimes, designers find the idea behind patterns limiting or restrictive. I find the opposite to be true.Patterns are great for solving easy problems, allowing us to think more about challenging design problems.
Another thing to note is that design patterns are not a substitute for design. Rather, they’re helpful foundational building blocks. Just because you use patterns doesn’t mean that your design will be good, or that you’re solving the right design problems. For example, we can create a form based on patterns, but we can’t ensure that we’re collecting the right information from our user. We will always need to apply design thinking to any design we approach, including designing with patterns.