Startup Best Practices Spread Quickly

One of the not-so-secret secrets of the startup world is that everyone copies everyone else. UI/UX, marketing, product — everything is “fair” game and almost nothing is off limits. The “rocket ships” are the ones who get copied the most, and for good reason. They have the resources to aggressively test tons of experiments, so if they decide to make something the default experience, it’s a safe assumption that it moved the needle in the right direction. Not to mention, they’ve demonstrated explosive growth for a reason.

This creates an interesting side effect, because when something becomes a “best practice,” you’ll quickly see it spread across TONS of companies. This is one of the reasons so many products and sites in the startup world seem so similar, and while this a bit unimaginative and can have some negative side effects, it can also be really powerful when leveraged correctly. Once a user has experienced a certain UX flow they’re more likely to understand and respond positively to it in the future. Conversely, marketing tactics likely lose their effectiveness as they become more pervasive.

A few examples of this that I’ve noticed emerging over the last year+ are:

Pre-empted app permission modals

Notification Permission
Swarm Notification Pre-empted Request

This is one of my favorites because it’s so simple, yet it makes so much sense. One of the biggest flaws with Apple permissions is that it’s all or nothing — if you’re denied, that’s it. If the user changes their mind, they have to go into their settings and find the applicable app and grant the appropriate permissions. This is obviously a huge headache and something most users won’t do. Thankfully Apple has made “winning back” a user’s permission slightly easier in iOS 8, in that you can now link them into the appropriate location (whereas previously this was not possible), but it still a more involved process and so avoiding the denial altogether is still your best bet.

By pre-empting the Apple permission modal, you avoid the all or nothing pitfall. If the user says “No thanks” then you don’t present them with the Apple modal. This strategy is particularly helpful if you want to ask permission during on boarding, because this is when they’re most likely to deny you. Over time, once you’ve demonstrated value and the user is more engaged, you can show them your custom permission screen again.

Negative Opt-out Wording For Email Capture Modals

Who Would Say No to That?!?
Who Would Say No to That?!?

This one has caught on like wildfire, particularly with content driven sites. Now every site tries to guilt you into giving them your email, by making the “no thanks” link copy very pointed. The only issue I have with these is when the ‘no thanks’ answer is overly negative, but in general they’re pretty clever. It’s also a great opportunity to inject more of your brand in selling point into your email capture, rather than just a boring pop-up.


Swipe Right For Yes and Left For No
Swipe Right For Yes and Left For No

The most common example of this is what Tinder has popularized; swipe right for yes and left for no. However, there has also been a large uptick in apps using the swipe action for a variety of uses. The second most common I’ve seen is to swipe away an app notification modal, rather than have to X it out. This is one of those situations where because ‘swiping’ has become so widespread, users have become educated on this action and so there is less friction in having it be a core part of your UX. Apple deserves some of the credit for popularizing this with their notification swiping.

Cute 404 Pages

When Viewing Live, The Scoop Falls Off The Cone
Viewed Live, The Scoop Falls Off The Cone

These have been around for a while now, but it feels like recently they’re getting more attention and more companies have realized that they’re worthwhile given the level of effort required to design and implement them. These are a great opportunity to show the fun side of your brand, but make sure not to overlook the UX of the page. A 404 page with no CTAs is useless, you want to help guide users away from the page and back into the core site experience.

Sad Unsubscribe Pages

Video Of A Grown Man Crying For Added Effect
Video Of A Grown Man Crying For Added Effect

Despite many predictions to the contrary and despite what you might want — email is not going anywhere. In fact, you could argue that email is more important than ever. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that unsubscribe pages are receiving more attention in an attempt to reduce subscriber churn. I mean, you’ve already worked hard to gain that email, why wouldn’t you want to put at least some effort into trying to stop them.

App Download Layovers On Mobile Sites

Customized By Sport and Current Events
Customized By Sport and Current Events

This has also been around in some form for a while — evolving from a small top banner on a site, to a more involved, full overlay like you see here. The new versions have undoubtedly raised conversions, because they are impossible to ignore, and they provide for a greater ability to insert your brand and value proposition. The companies that do this best use the tactic sparingly. If you’re constantly bombarding the user with popups and layovers, it’s going to be a terrible experience and will eventually turn them off from your site.

Bleacher Report only does the full layover when you get linked into an article and then they customize the graphic depending on what type of article you’re reading and what current events are happening for that sport— it’s very well done. Whereas if you visit the site directly, you’ll only see the less intrusive top banner. Given how pervasive this tactic has become, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that these banner and overlays effectiveness have changed, in some cases positively and others negatively, as users have become more familiar with them.


Hopefully this was helpful and has given you a few ideas that you can incorporate into your product. A final word of warning — just because something has seen widespread adoption, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t test it first. Depending on your product, market and demographics you might find out that a “best practice” is in fact not applicable when it comes to your users. In addition, just because something moves the numbers in the right direction, doesn’t mean that you should do it. Remember to keep the user experience in mind and avoid making changes that you would find annoying if you ran across it on a different site.

I’m curious to hear what trends you guys have noticed recently — share them in the comments!