In life, we’re frequently told and advised to just be ourselves, to not constantly cater to what society expect of you and just focus on what brings you joy. For the most part, this is not actually a bad advice but let me remind you that this kind of thinking is what led Ted Bundy into becoming Ted Bundy and sometimes, fitting in is your best course of action. The unknown might be exciting at times but they can be equally disheartening and this is why in the world of web development, it’s not exactly a bad idea to lean in to the concept of familiarity every now and then.
As an analogy, look into some of the biggest films in 2019 and you’ll start to see a pattern. We have the updated, live-action version of Disney classics such as The Lion King and Aladdin, the final entry in Star Wars third trilogy, and a Terminator sequel that brings back some of of the more notable characters from the earlier films. As much as we clamor for the new and exciting, we are naturally drawn to what’s familiar and this is something you can always take advantage of in web development.
Staying in our comfort zone
The common adage is that familiarity breeds contempt, that the longer you comes into contact with something, the less respect of affinity you’re going to have for that particular thing. Honestly, I would very much like to call hogwash on that particular adage. I’ve been regularly playing Pokémon games since the very first one came out in 1998 and even after two decades, I’ve always eagerly anticipated the latest video games. Because of how the games have largely stuck the same formula, I know what I’m going to get with Pokémon but instead of diminishing my interest, it has instead raised my anticipation because I know I’m going to have a good time.
The phrase staying in the comfort zone tends to carry a negative stigma because it implies a lack of a sense of adventure and an inherent conservative attitude but there’s virtue in sticking to your lane. Being open to new ideas but if you’re confident in what works, why fix what isn’t broken? Trying to engage in something novel and a desire to innovate can sometimes lead to unreasonable expectations and that can be particularly damaging as the potential for disappointment would be high.
Setting you up for failure
When you promise something new and exciting to the general public, you’re basically setting yourself into having to fulfill two different goals; that the public is willing to adapt to whatever you bring to the table and what you’re bringing is an improvement to what’s currently out there. The first one can be especially hard and typically, it’s the kind of thing that only companies that have accumulated a lot of goodwill can safely navigate. There are plenty of real world examples of the difficulty in being a trailblazer.
In a conversation of when online video gaming first appeared on consoles, Microsoft’s Xbox Live that launched in 2002 is frequently cited as the starting point when in fact; it was Sega’s Dreamcast that first had the audacity to start the trend in the late 90s. Despite the critical acclaim received by games like Phantasy Star Online, which has been frequently cited as a landmark title in the history of video game, the console market as a whole didn’t warm up to online games until Microsoft took the baton.
Forcing the public to adapt to your ways isn’t always a good idea
Whenever I boot up a new Pokémon game for the first time, I always know what I’m going to get. It always comes down to the choice between three starter Pokémons, a limit of four moves per Pokémons and a limit of six Pokémons at any given moment. There are 8 gym leaders across the region I have to beat before I could enter the Pokémon League in which I have to battle the Elite Four and the region’s champion and hundreds of Pokémons to catch and train. Thanks to my familiarity with the system, there’s only a small learning curve and this is why familiarity can be such as powerful tool in the world of web development.
In websites, usability has always been an important factor. With so much competition and so little in terms of attention span, you can’t risk having a website that has a steep learning curve as that could easily push away potential customers as they look for an easier website to navigate. Best practices and generally accepted standards exist for a reason and it’s easy to overlook what is familiar in search of the exceptional as designers focus on what they think look best instead of putting the focus on users.
Falling back on design archetypes isn’t a sin
For the more creative designers, relying on archetypes tends to be strictly verboten but trust me when I say that those archetypes exist for a reason; they tend to work. Radical reinvention is a risky bet and 90% of the time, it’s better to use archetypes as a starting point and focus in improving them one step at a time. I’m not saying that thinking outside the box isn’t useful but that’s the kind of advice that could only work when you have the necessary resource to back it up, something that might be too out of reach for small businesses.