When talking about user experience, UX in short, people are always talking about user flow, ease of use, accessibility, credibility, etc. But before going into all of that, we should first understand the forces behind UX – innovation and standardization.
There are generally two types of people who think ‘innovation’ when comes to UX.
The first type sees innovation as simply ‘differentiation’. The thought process that this first type goes through is focused on not following how others do it. Common questions asked by them are “How can we do things differently?”, “How can we make sure that we stand out amongst our competitors?”, and “How do we make people notice and remember us instead of our competitors?”.
The second type sees innovation as creating value. Value here may come in the form of shorter and simpler steps for consumers to achieve their goal, a more interactive method for tracking consumer behaviours, or revolutionising the way consumers have always used to complete tasks. Think about Warby Parker for a minute. When the founders, just a few business school students back then, first pitched their idea to investors and their professor, they were turned down because e-commerce for glasses just seemed like a bad proposition – firstly, glasses have always been purchased in stores due to the need for prescription and trying, and secondly, how is one e-commerce site going to compete with Luxottica, the giant with a near-monopoly hold on eyewear manufacturing, distribution, and retailing? The founders of Warby Parker addressed these issues methodically by making their website’s UI/UX fun, convenient, and easy, through a virtual try-on feature. The fun experience is extended by their home -try-on program, allowing their customers to choose five frames to try for five days, all free of charge.
Now, you can’t really fault the mindset of the first type, but it’s much easier to argue why creating value is far better than just being different.
Standardization is the exact opposite of innovation, one pushes for uniformity while the other pushes for change. The primary reason for standardization is familiarity, to do away with a steep learning curve, to let consumers use something they have seen and utilised before.
Think about e-commerce sites these days. Chances are most e-commerce sites look and feel very similar. Sure, the product pictures and the company logo may be different, but almost everything else are the same, if not very similar. Thanks to the popularity of major e-commerce platforms such as Shopify and Magento, companies have launched their e-commerce websites based on the same templates, which are readily available. This means elements such as fonts, colors, layouts, banner spaces, amongst others, are reused over and over again by different e-commerce sites. While some may argue how bad that is, Shopify has invested significant resources in making sure that their platform provides the most popular e-commerce features that work.
Let’s be clear – standardization is not a bad thing! Using proven methods and results from others for yourself is only natural.
Balancing Innovation and Standardization
Innovation and standardization are different ends of the spectrum, balancing them will be near impossible. That’s not what UX is about. The right digital strategy is knowing when and where to apply the laws of innovation and standardization.
Again using e-commerce as an example, there was a time when every online store was focused on flooding their customers with products and categories. When every online store was competing in the same space, with the same offering and user experience, ASOS decided to be innovative in their approach. They removed the scrolling carousel which almost every other online store had on their homepage, together with the list of product categories on the left column. Instead they focused on content marketing for fashion and product ideas. This approach helped to bring more users on to not only look for products, but also to look for fashion inspiration and trends. As a result, ASOS’s market leader position was secured, and this approach has since been adopted by other market players.
Learning point? When your business is similar to all your competitors out there, innovate in your UX, otherwise you are not offering anything different. On the other hand, when your business is doing something innovative and unique in the form of a new service or feature, use a standardized UX so that users are susceptible to adopt it quickly.