One interesting topic that is quite controversial between product and design is whether we want to innovate something or be the same as everyone else and whether you think that innovation is cool and awesome that everyone should innovate, or you think its safe to be similar, slightly boring, to make something that is tried and tested. the answer is in Jakob’s law where it states the following
Users spend most of their time on other sites. This means that users prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know. ~ Jakob Nielsen
Now let’s be clear, the target is not to have total sameness across all websites/products/apps of the same nature. but rather to have products of the same nature have a similar experience, using cumulative experiences that users have gained from other products of the same nature to reduce the learning curve for the user and enable seamless productivity on your product, where the user is instantly able to perform the basic common tasks without confusion or frustration.
Imagine if every website decided to go wild, and that bar to the top is something for search, somethings you can use it to log in, sometimes you can use it write the page name and it just takes you there. wouldn't that be confusing? what about login, and registration to be always in the middle of the page rather than top right? again you can do these gimmicks whenever you can build a good case for it but understand that what you intend it to be is not always how the user will perceive
so for structures and component behaviors, especially when it’s important for the user to complete a certain task, it’s a good place to leverage common design patterns and conventions to enable users are immediately familiar and productive with your app/website.
for innovative components and areas that you feel there is a good case to be explored, it’s a good practice to proceed with the following:
1- Partial Rollout
Rather than going neck-deep into that new design its a good practice to rollout to percentages of the users and give time for saturation, where you can get feedback on whether something is awfully off, so you can mitigate the risk
2- Revert Rollout
No one likes to be forced to update especially when its something they use or regular basis to do daily, so giving the users the option to choose whether they like the new design or they prefer the old one, will a) give you data on actual user preference b) your users wouldn't complain as much since they can revert to their preferred design
3- Friction Mitigation
Understanding that design is about the products communicating to users, so rather than perfecting the aesthetics, and its ideal situation especially when you are creating your own path to think of friction points to the user where they will need to think or understand that new experience and reduce it to only the minimum.
4- Understand your User
Never try to innovate when you are not sure about who your user is. what are your user needs, goals, tasks to accomplish on your website or product, frustrations, and common traits. if these are not solid and clear to you then its better to start with that understanding before moving forward with a new and "innovative" design!
So to conclude, it’s usually better to align yourself with common patterns and conventions most of the time, and only deviate only when there is a strong case for it, use data and proceed with caution
Header image is by Omar Flores