1 min Read
August 26, 2013

After best practices, what’s next?

Katherine Lindstedt

Ah, best practices. Those trusty tried-and-true processes and tactics that we know will work—at least for the time being. It’s easy to rely on them. Less easy, though, is knowing when it’s time to move on from them. 

I’m one of those people who take issue with the very idea of best practices. After all, the stuff we call “best practices” inevitably started out as something new and blatantly non-best-practice-y. They probably came into being because someone decided to question whatever systems were in place and innovate, which is precisely what we stop doing once we become overly reliant on best practices. 

To borrow from another argument against best practices: “One of the most common reasons for pursuing best practices in a given area is to avoid having to ‘reinvent the wheel.’ Think about it like this—if nobody ever reinvented the wheel, they’d still be made from stone…Maintenance doesn’t lead you forward—creation does.” 

Not to mention the fact that the very nature of best practices implies a one-size-fits-all approach; if one company had success with a certain strategy, that doesn’t necessarily mean a completely different business will.

And even if they were entirely unproblematic as a concept, best practices are never really here to stay: In an ever-changing world like ours, what’s relevant today may no longer be so tomorrow. In fact, it probably won’t be. Remember when a certain web design best practice advised us to keep our content above the fold (the part on the page where we begin to scroll)? But nowadays, the way we use the internet and interact with pages is changing. And given that we now use tablets, smart phones, and monitors of all shapes and sizes to browse the web, the fold itself isn’t the fixed thing it once was.

The point being, of course, that it’s important to constantly question “best practices,” to treat them as a starting point, to adapt rather than adopt them. Because, at the end of the day, I can’t help but worry that best practices might be getting in the way of even better practices. 

Also, Dan thinks we should probably try our best to avoid them.