I see a lot of questions here asking about established conventions or standards. This question has it roots in this discussion about an app drawer icon being a convention or not. I would like to know what factors do you think contribute for having an ongoing pattern or trend establish as a standard. There are some things that come to my mind:

  • Standardized through exhaustive empirical studies and user research - For example, there can be numerous papers and studies on well-known/established mediums and platforms like SIGCHI or IXDA.
  • Trend adopted by mass influencers like Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc
  • Recommended by pioneers like NN/g
  • Time - If a trend has been present over a long time, people tend to see it as a convention. Although, this can be a subjective matter and comes with more questions like how long is the time period? What is the adoption rate? Does it run the risk of becoming irrelevant over a period of time?

What factors do you consider? Can you share a case study/personal experience wherein you adopted an ongoing trend because of some strong factor?

I can make a very rough analogy to mathematics here in the form of axioms,theorems and conjectures. Axioms are always true, conjecture is a proposition which appears to be correct and theorem is a proven result. So, an ongoing trend would be like a conjecture?

2 Answers 2


Generally: when it's good enough for YOU

UX is very different from mathematics, because axiomatic mathematical truths are invariant to circumstances and context whereas UX is highly dependent on circumstances and context.

Therefore, a UX practice or technique may be conventional enough for one situation (or designer) but not conventional enough for another. For example:

  • A new UX trend promoted by Facebook last month may be sufficiently notable for a leading edge design firm to start using it in their showcase sites. That design shop might consider it a trend.
  • That very same trend may not be nearly notable enough for Amazon.com to use in its site because it simply isn't tested enough. Amazon might consider it a novelty still.

The same applies for any other designer confronted with assessing whether a UX trend is conventional enough for her project. There may be an academic debate over whether or not the trend is "conventional" because FB/GOOG/etc use it, but in the end it comes down to the contours of the designer's specific project and whether that technique has enough proof points, coverage and user awareness to match the risk tolerance and design objectives for the site.

One exception...

Is formal standards promulgated by legal or standards bodies such as those for security, accessibility or operating system compliance. Since these are formal standards, they aren't subject to quite the same subjectivity as conventions, so the decision tends to be clearer in this case.

  • True that UX != Math. I was just taking a rough analogy between UX and Math. :) For example, can we consider the UX pattern of logo taking you to home page as a convention or mathematical equivalent of axiom? Anyways, I was thinking aloud there :)
    – Adit Gupta
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 18:42
  • I think coverage and user awareness can be subjective and cultural matter. But as you said, there are factors like risk tolerance and design objectives to be considered in addition to other issues like stakeholders POV and conversion goals. I personally think designers should try out emerging trends if possible provided they do not completely mismatch user's mental models.
    – Adit Gupta
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 19:11

Think that trends do tend to happen regardless of the patterns usability. This is simply because they became popular when someone created a great website or app with it, and soon enough other designers thought it was cool and started using it in their projects. Also there are endless lists over the internet called something like "top UX trends you shouldn't ignore for 2015". This also happens because of ux designs being interconnected with visual design. A good example for this is parallax scrolling and hamburgers.

In my opinion the best patterns will stand the test of time. Even if its not an optimal pattern, it would have been used so much that majority users got used to this pattern and it takes more effort to adapt to a new pattern.

  • Thing is, even bad patterns can stand the test of time. Anti-patterns can be as common as patterns. :)
    – DA01
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 18:55

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