The 'Best Practice' Isn't Always The Right Practice
The ‘Best Practice’ Isn’t Always The Right Practice
Date: October 17, 2016
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“Best practices are starting points: if you have no data, start with these. They are not what you should end up with, but it’s where you start (the optimization). That’s an important distinction.” — Eduardo Esparza

I came across this article, 10 Best Practices for Better B2B Website Experience, the other day on Twitter. For starters, anything with the initialism ‘B2B’ catches my eye. When I research, I find an abundance of articles on digital design, but it’s harder to find things specifically on B2B design. And believe me, if you’re in the B2B world, you know— it’s basically nothing like B2C.

Anyway, these three sentences really struck me. “Best practices are starting points: if you have no data, start with these. They are not what you should end up with, but it’s where you start (the optimization). That’s an important distinction.”

“Best practices are starting points: if you have no data, start with these.”

I am fortunate enough to work with a plethora of clients; big, small, you name it. In fact, we have some clients who are diving into a nurture campaign for the first time with us. Where do we start with them? Best practices (or in my office, BPs).

These clients are so unique because they really don’t have any data and we aren’t sure what their specific audience is going to respond to. In these cases, best practices are the most useful tools we have.

As a designer/developer, these are always changing and I find that it’s actually very refreshing to start with a clean slate. It’s a great opportunity to sit with my team and get back to the basics. What really are the best practices, and how can we utilize them here?

I recently had a new client who was creating a set of emails and landing pages with us for the first time. Once we had our design call to discuss their branding guidelines, I opened up a blank Photoshop file to start creating wireframes.

Imagine that? Blank. No previous templates to work off, no history to review, just a blank canvas in front of me. You have to welcome the opportunity here, research current trends and find ways to implement best practices.

I find that some of our older clients are reluctant to develop and change templates once they’re created (usually because of deadlines, and/or attempting to push content out in the most “efficient” way). Before you know it, we’re 2 years down the road and the template is looking rather outdated.

So, embrace new clients, and get back to best practices. What are they and which best apply to this client, their audience, and this particular field?

“They are not what you should end up with, but it’s where you start (the optimization).”

This next sentence felt so profound to me. “They are not what you should end up with..” It sounds almost sacrilegious, doesn’t it? Why on earth would I not want to end up with the BP’s?

Testing, that’s why. We talk about testing all the time, and in the end, that’s what pulls you away from best practices.

I see it within our publication and event emails. Promotional materials for articles and white papers are very different from our event promos. The audience is different. The message is different. And, the end goal is different.

The publication audience, those downloading white papers and clicking to read articles— they love buttons and images. It’s where I see the most clicks. Contrary to that, the events audience loves to click live text. So much so, that I actually changed our strategy on those a few years back. In previous promos, the conference title had been the first text link. Now, that first link is typically related to the main CTA and is well thought out by the edit team.

Get to know your audience and don’t be afraid to try different things. More importantly, don’t be afraid to write your own best practices.

“That’s an important distinction.”

By all means, start with best practices. When you have no data or history to rely on, the provide a great jumping off point for everyone.

Remember though, that best practices are unique— not universal. What works with one audience may completely back fire on another, especially if you’re working within different industries.

Test your ideas, see what your audience responds to. It is ok to stray from a best practice if it works for your audience. Data and analytics are your friends! I swear.

melanie

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