In Jonathan Mendez’s blog, he recently proclaimed the death of “best practices”.
At WiderFunnel, we firmly believe, and have seen many times through experience, that there are always better ways to do things. Best practices should not be used as sacred rules. Absolutes are dangerous and experience in one situation cannot be translated uncritically to another.
But, I disagree with Jonathan’s hard-line approach. Best practices are still very valuable as guidelines to help define a starting point.
Any Conversion Optimization expert knows that a more comfortable or familiar conversion funnel will produce less friction for customers. Reducing transactional friction is one of the key variables that will help increase conversion rates. That is one of the uses for best practices. They include general understandings of what will allow people to interact with your site and complete their transactions with minimal cognitive activity.
For example, people expect that a home page navigation bar will not be on the right side of your page layout. You may be able to prove (through statistically valid testing) in your particular situation that a right-hand nav works best, but that’s probably not the best starting point. If you want to design outside the box, fine. But why not make your control aligned with what’s been shown to work and then disprove the best practices from there?
In another example, people expect that clicking on your logo will take them back to the home page. It’s a Best Practice that eBay, Google, Wal-Mart, Amazon, Best Buy, Wikipedia, and WiderFunnel all follow (among almost everyone else). But why doesn’t Jonathan Mendez? Maybe he just doesn’t believe in best practices. Or, maybe he’s tested and shown that it reduces his conversion rate. Hmm…
Keys to using Best Practices effectively include:
- Using best practices as guidelines to develop a starting point for testing rather than as absolutes
- Acknowledging that best practices are evolving and yesterdays’ cream may be todays’ sour milk
- Continually testing against today’s best practices to create tomorrows
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