13 — Lean on what’s gone before

You are creating something that has never existed before. That’s a lovely thing, but at the same time, it’s probably not the first time your users have encountered this problem and looked for other solutions in the past.

They come from situations where those problems may be personal to them or have been encountered regularly by those around them. They’ve already gathered ideas, notions, concepts and ways of thinking that are shaping what they ultimately want and expect.

Good products should be novel, unique and interesting. There is little point in just copying what is already out there. But you should consider the mental burden you’re putting on your users by deciding what is worth inventing and what is just reinventing the wheel.

Your users are already processing so much, just by going through your app. Their brains are continually attempting to answer the questions of what it is, what it does and what to do next. If you want to introduce something novel, make sure it’s worth the effort.

Every platform has conventions that can be leaned on. From the way a toggle switches, to how a date picker operates, to how a button works. There are even preconceived understandings of what iconography should look and mean, how things are laid out, even the naming of certain objects, areas or items. These all depend on who your users are, what past experiences they’ve had and what platform they’re choosing to interact with your app on.

There are conventions being learnt by your users at every level. From the operating system to the browser, to also similar products that have solved similar problems. You can save a lot of work for yourself, and for your users, by leaning on what’s gone before. This means your users have less to learn when using your app and also frees you up to innovate where it matters.


Look at all the conventions that are being followed already. Not everything needs to be reinvented. There are conventions to be found in the platform you’re building for, the market your app is entering into, and what previous experiences your users may have already had. Their demographic, status and culture can all play a part. When it comes to introducing new, remember it comes with a cost — make sure it’s worth it.

Further learning topics: Conventions, Mental Models

James Morris

Hey, I'm James 👋 I want to know what you think and would love some feedback. Just reach out over email. Say hey!