What is so frightened to designers to use grids, patterns ...

What the heck is so frightened to designers to use grids, patterns, modules and elements (components) or frameworks?
I hold a degree in architecture and town planning. And as an architect I never heard the critic “architecture is boring and uncreative just because we use grids, patterns, modules and elements (components) and frameworks.” – Yes sometimes it’s true, some buildings have basements, have walls and roofs – but have no architecture, … no character, no … what ever! These building are just buildings, just house – a lot of people have to live and work in such houses.
In these cases the tool (grid, software or the pencil) isn’t the culprit. The guilty person is the one who “designed” or developed this piece of bricks and concrete. He couldn’t handle his tools.
Over and over again our client thinks he has the final briefing in his hands. Often he can tell us WHAT he likes to get - But not WHY.
Even when you know the why and what - Marking out or classifying how or where to start can be the most difficult step in the entire process.
  • Overall aim and ensuing strategy
  • Following particular media aims and strategies
  • Supportive content and features
  • Mood and character
Even when you suppose and believe you've got it all sussed out, how can you be sure you're not missing something critical or elemental? How can you be sure you're truly meeting user needs while you're busy supporting business goals? Confused? What is the topic of this post? It’s about grids, patterns, modules and elements (components) and frameworks, their relationship regarding to the other design aspects – starting from the overall process of the whole project down to the tiniest design part and icon.
I’m a firm believer that it’s more than helpful to have patterns, modules and elements (components) or frameworks during and in the process. Again and again I’ve met and meet designers and agencies who are afraid of this kind of structures. There is no reason to be afraid. If you have such a framework and if you know it well – you can use it as a parachute.
The task of converting a high-level understanding of a project's purpose into an appearance with high-level utility and excellent usability can be a tough job. You can use your project-framework just like as a checklist.
  • What are the principles and characters?
  • Is it stringent and clear?
  • Can the user make out his path to completion, to reach his aim?
  • Does he get a good feeling about his progressive disclosure during his session?
  • Does he discover and understand opportunities and dependencies?
To reach these goals we need to be stringent and clear! From the first pitch, a unique and adequate over-all strategy, to the last run and base, the tiniest icon or border. Determining where and how to kick off the project is in the most cases easier said than done, and even when we suppose we've got it all exposed and reflected, how can we be sure we're not failing to notice something critical without such a checklist?
Managers and consultants – they often firmly believe knowing every part and aspect of needs and aspects relating to participants, circumstances, media channels and quite a few points more. How can they be so sure they’re meeting user needs in actual fact while they're busy supporting business goals?
We should always be keen on developing very usable and self-evident interfaces for websites, software, applications and any other kind of interaction works and use-cases within the app. Our part should be creating media and products thus our users can be effective and successful. That’s the little angel on our one shoulder on the other one there is the little devil.
This devil tells us to invent innovative and exciting interactions to overwhelm our users, make waves in the market and or to win an award. This devil doesn’t have to be our opponent. Often it’s our partner or friend. He forces us to create innovative, original, and exciting interactions. Which one comes first is often a circumstance of who's leading the process or who has the better standing. Good design is not only interface, or look and feel, or technology, or hardware, or how it works. It is every detail, like the structure, the labelling, and the border of a button or a little icon. Finally, it is the sum of every element. It’s every brick of the “building”. In every kind of process we should act in a team but in the process of UXD it is absolutely essential that we have to think parallel, with the same focus. We have to act in a team, although every team member is a kind of lawyer: lawyer of budget, of the client, of utility, of usability, of look and feel, of brand and finally of the user himself. At the end of the project, our users are the final judges.

Concept and design patterns can be great tools and should hold a permanent place in every application, but they have limitations, and we should these restrictions. Design patterns offer guidelines for the solution of very specific problems. What they don't do is tell how those problems relate to and affect other problems. We all know various useful and well-known patterns. Patterns for huge applications, single pages and standard functions – like the steering wheel of a car (we move it to the left – we’ll drive to the left), previous and next button (click on the left button leads us to the previous content and vice versa) and OK and Cancel … hmmm … STOP … which one should be on the left and which one on the right? … A PC-users will expect OK on the left – A MAC-user will expect the OK button on the right. You see - that’s an “it depends on” story … and an extra story for the future. … Back to my topic! Let us have a look at SERPs and at the already mentioned previous and next buttons. In addition to these buttons - if we have more than 10 results we’ll find pagination pattern on the SERP. And we all know these lists of numbered links. By the way … If u’re interested why Google choose to put only 10 search results on their SERP – check out this talk:

This look pagination interaction is copied by so many others. Does that say it’s a well-learned solution? YES! Does that say it’s a familiar solution? YES! Does that say it’s best practice for each search result page? NO! Let’s have look at Google.com – We all know this appearance … But, why does Google's pagination offer links to just a few neighbored pages by default, and not more? Third, how does it fit into the search behavior of the individual user? … Is it still useful for pictures? Yes – Google has improved their image search by several nice search options …

but … is that really the way we (“visual people”) are on the hunt to find pictures? NO – Do you know Cooliris?

Cooliris (formerly PicLens) transforms your SERP into a 3D Wall for searching, viewing and “interest” or in other words involvement.
To answer these questions, we can't look only at the pagination design. We have to ask, check, learn – to look at the …
  • Task
  • Circumstances
  • Target Groups
  • Target Users
  • Aim of the user
  • Client
  • Aim of the client
  • Technical framework
  • Search system
  • etc.
We shouldn’t trust blind to design patterns for the solutions to all our design ills. Even if we think we know the “disease” well. We have to look at the whole user experience design always and again and again.
As I already said a firmly believe in pattern – but I've said it before – you remember there is often the angel and the devil on our shoulder. The good and evil appear of patterns as two sides of the same coin.
Before you start yelling now either “This is something I have said all along!” or “Repetition is monotonous and boring” or “Standards are the death of innovation!” , however, remember that frameworks and structures can also offer insight how to take things up a notch.
As long as you know the advantages and disadvantages, the pros and cons of tools, process workflows and sequences you can deal and use them for your benefits. Or keep them in mind to save them for a rainy day (problem, project, …) And therein lies your opportunity use pattern when you need them – and put them aside when you don’t need them. But if you don’t know them you’re unable to do so.
These methods that led you to the concept, the blueprint of more or less regular solutions, can also lead to others, much more persuasive solutions. Put this is a matter of approach, method and technique at the center of your decision-making process and you give yourself the ability to design incredible things that still work well for users.