We tend to follow best practices and established patterns. It feels safe, as we base our decisions on something better than just our intuition. But intuition can be very helpful in solving real-world problems. It can save us from blindly following some design pattern that might not be the best approach to the task at hand.
More often than not, disabled button is a bad practice or even an anti-pattern. It is often used based on one of the usability heuristic: error prevention.
Good error messages are important, but the best designs carefully prevent problems from occurring in the first place.10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design by nngroup.com
I like to think of the usability heuristics, and in fact any design patterns, as rules of thumb, rather than carved in stone principles that must be followed at all times.
Of course, best practices and established patterns are very important. Remember that first, you should know and understand the rule. Only then you can consciously break it if you are certain it will be beneficial to the users.
How can you be sure? With user testing, obviously, but that is a topic for another story.
- Why heuristics are only rules of thumb: the case of the disabled button
- Don’t blindly apply software patterns
- Preventing User Errors: Avoiding Unconscious Slips
- Frustrating Design Patterns: Disabled Buttons
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