Conventions and expectations

When you launch something new, you're almost certainly placing it into a section of the world that already has expectations about how things like this are supposed to work. A university gives diplomas. Restaurant waiters take tips. Software ought to have a 'save as' button.

It can be far more subtle than that. An emergency room waiting area looks very different from the waiting area at the chiropractor's office, even though both have the same function (waiting). The sound quality and background noise on a personal phone call sounds subtly different from one that's coming from a call center. A well-published book has chapters that start on the right-hand page.

Challenging conventions is precisely what makes your thing new. Hence unconventional. The difficulty comes when you challenge conventions and defy expectations that you weren't planning on upsetting. The inadvertent skipping of what we expect causes you to frustrate us, or to appear as an uncaring, unprepared amateur, or both.

Polish comes from domain knowledge, from having an intimate understanding of what people like your customers expect when they encounter something like the thing you just built. Sure, violate those expectations when they serve your needs. The rest of the time, though, it's smart to play along.