Just like clothing styles go in and out of fashion, design trends on the web will also come and go. Whether it be the use of gradients or background videos or rounded corners or carousels or large hero images, there will always be something going in or out of style.
In response to these fads, website creators may feel the pressure to either a) copy what everyone else is doing; or b) try to be creative and come up with something new. But in the midst of deciding what should be done, there is an important question—a question that will never go out of style—that should also be considered: “What is best for the user?”
Some questions of design will have limited functional impact on the user. Whether or not you round the corners of certain elements, for instance, is usually more connected to design preferences and branding. It’s not something that will have a signifiant impact on the user either way.
There are other decisions, though, that could. Where you place the site navigation and page content, for instance are decisions that will impact the user on every page. What kinds of assets you use, and how large they are, could have a real effect on the experience of your users, depending on their device or connection speed.
Sometimes simply following the crowd, and doing what everybody else is doing, doesn’t really help the user. And sometimes trying to be different, especially if it goes against what your users are used to or expect, can also cause them unnecessary frustration or annoyance.
Keeping an eye on what is best for the user enables you to better decide when it’s appropriate to keep with the conventions of the day, and when it’s safe to be creative and go a different route.