Fooled by best practice
!
!
!
Dana Chisnell
UsabilityWorks and Center for Civic Design

dana@centerforcivicdesign.org
@dan...
The eureka moment
“Choice” was the wrong choice.
The project of a lifetime
$7,000,000
What if anyone could vote
on any device?
Designing for the invisible
Low literacy
48% of US adults
linear reading
literal meaning
Best practices
Embed assistance
Include illustrations
Add supplemental content
Prevent unintentional voting or skipping
2007
2008
Started with 

best practice
Rapid Estimate of Adult
Literacy in Medicine
REALM
Participants of the REALM
Process
related research
competitors
design principles
sketching
paper prototypes
digital prototypes
Process
33 sessions
at least 3 iterations
up to 20
The promise of “best practices”
Best practice:
Someone else has made the mistakes already.
Conventions are
enforced learned
behavior
The way things are usually done
Best practices v. 

conventions
ALT text 

captions on videos

good contrast 

obviously clickable 

relevant illustrations
Best practices v. 

conventions
scroll bar behavior 

save as v. duplicate 

mega menus 

pull to refresh

hamburger menus
Shortcuts
(that we confuse with conventions)
Avoiding reinvention
Why “choice” was bad
Voting Summary
deciding decided
Before After
Lessons learned
Before After
Before After
Before After
Trust the process
The process proved 

the conventions 

were broken
Plain interaction
Plain interaction
The fewest, simplest steps with maximal focus on
the user’s immediate next interaction.
“Best practice” is not enough.
Thank you.
Dana Chisnell

Center for
Civic Design
and


dana@centerforcivicdesign.org
centerforcivicdesign.org






@danachis

@Chad...
P.S.
Try out a prototype of the ballot for yourself at
anywhereballot.com
Fooled by best practice
Fooled by best practice
Fooled by best practice
Fooled by best practice
Fooled by best practice
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Fooled by best practice

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As a practice, UX is confused about what is a short cut, what is a convention, and what is a best practice. Fortunately, the process on this project revealed where all of those were broken for the target users: people with low literacy.

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Fooled by best practice

  1. 1. Fooled by best practice ! ! ! Dana Chisnell UsabilityWorks and Center for Civic Design
 dana@centerforcivicdesign.org @danachis
  2. 2. The eureka moment
  3. 3. “Choice” was the wrong choice.
  4. 4. The project of a lifetime
  5. 5. $7,000,000
  6. 6. What if anyone could vote on any device?
  7. 7. Designing for the invisible
  8. 8. Low literacy 48% of US adults linear reading literal meaning
  9. 9. Best practices Embed assistance Include illustrations Add supplemental content Prevent unintentional voting or skipping
  10. 10. 2007 2008 Started with 
 best practice
  11. 11. Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine REALM
  12. 12. Participants of the REALM
  13. 13. Process related research competitors design principles sketching paper prototypes digital prototypes
  14. 14. Process 33 sessions at least 3 iterations up to 20
  15. 15. The promise of “best practices”
  16. 16. Best practice: Someone else has made the mistakes already.
  17. 17. Conventions are enforced learned behavior The way things are usually done
  18. 18. Best practices v. 
 conventions ALT text 
 captions on videos
 good contrast 
 obviously clickable 
 relevant illustrations
  19. 19. Best practices v. 
 conventions scroll bar behavior 
 save as v. duplicate 
 mega menus 
 pull to refresh
 hamburger menus
  20. 20. Shortcuts (that we confuse with conventions)
  21. 21. Avoiding reinvention
  22. 22. Why “choice” was bad
  23. 23. Voting Summary deciding decided
  24. 24. Before After
  25. 25. Lessons learned
  26. 26. Before After
  27. 27. Before After
  28. 28. Before After
  29. 29. Trust the process
  30. 30. The process proved 
 the conventions 
 were broken
  31. 31. Plain interaction
  32. 32. Plain interaction The fewest, simplest steps with maximal focus on the user’s immediate next interaction.
  33. 33. “Best practice” is not enough.
  34. 34. Thank you.
  35. 35. Dana Chisnell
 Center for Civic Design and 
 dana@centerforcivicdesign.org centerforcivicdesign.org 
 
 
 @danachis
 @ChadButterfly
  36. 36. P.S. Try out a prototype of the ballot for yourself at anywhereballot.com
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