Last week @justinpremick tweeted the question “Is it ever OK to break best practices.” My reaction, and reply, was of course it is OK to break best practices, if you know what you’re doing and why.
Best practices are all about things that are safe. If you do these things, in all likelihood you will not encounter any major problems. The things we tell people are best practices are not written in stone and inviolable. Rather, they’re a way to succeed without understanding all the ins and outs of email.
The key to violating best practices is to know why the recommendation is a best practice. Take, for example, practices relating to email design. Best practices say that emails should not be image only and they should be designed in such a way that users don’t have to scroll sideways. However, StyleCampaign recently reported on a campaign from the Canadian Tourist Board that violated both of these best practices.
The email was laid out as a maze, requiring the user to scroll around the message to find the call to action. The designers have reported they are quite pleased with how successful the campaign was received.
So, yes, Justin, you can violate best practices and it is OK. Best practices are not laws, they are guides. If you know what pitfalls the best practices are helping you avoid, then you can violate those guides without problems.