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Statistically, nobody has used your app

People spend most of their time on sites and apps other than yours. This means that users prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know.

Odds are, nobody has used the thing you're building.

Here's why that's a good thing:

According to the UX principle known as Jakob's Law, people spend most of their time on other sites and apps . This means that people inherently prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know.

Jakob's Law is named after UX pioneer Jakob Nielsen, who is a (now-retired) UX researcher and principal of the Nielsen Norman Group. He's been a leading voice in the field of usability for over 25 years.

In other words, if every list, page, and form on your site is built in a way that's familiar to users, they're more likely to understand how to use it. This is why design patterns are so important.

You can think of design patterns as the common solutions to common problems. They're the tried-and-true ways of doing things that users are already familiar with.

Some examples of design patterns include:

  • The hamburger menu - a common way to hide navigation links on mobile devices
  • Infinite scrolling - a way to load more content as users scroll down the page
  • The card layout - a way to organize content into bite-sized chunks

These should all sound familiar -- and you probably know what they should feel like to use. By using common design patterns, people using your site will already know how it works, at least on some level.

Jakob's Law is a reminder that you don't have to reinvent the wheel. Instead, borrow bits and pieces that are common to other sites and apps. This will make your work feel more familiar, and therefore more usable, to your users.

It can still feel unique

Just because you're using design patterns doesn't mean your site has to look like every other site out there. You can still add your own unique touches to make your site stand out. Focus on getting the basics right first, and then tweak the details to make your site feel unique.

Now Playing screens in Spotify, YouTube Music, and Apple Music
Now Playing screens in Spotify, YouTube Music, and Apple Music, all using common design pattern for music apps with their own branding.

Build it like Lego bricks

Here's a worthwhile exercise: as you're building a new feature for your product, try to imagine how other popular apps might solve the same problem. What would your menus and nav look like if Apple designed them? What about Airbnb or Spotify?

If you're having trouble envisioning that, it might be worth your time to mock up your interface as a collage of other apps. Grab screenshots of the UI elements you like from other apps and piece them together to create a rough draft of your own interface. This can help you see how different design patterns might work together in your own app, and it is way cheaper than building the whole thing out before you realize it doesn't work.

Tools of the trade

My favorite tool for this is Mobbin - it is a hand-picked collection of screenshots from well-designed mobile web apps, organized by workflow, feature, and product category. It's searchable, too, which means you can search for login on IOS and see how the best apps handle login screens.

Mobbin screenshot
Mobbin organizes screenshots of well-designed mobile web apps by workflow, feature, and product category.

It's a great place to start when you're looking for inspiration or trying to figure out how to solve a particular design problem.

Mobbin' can also export directly to Figma, which is a great way to get started on your own designs.

You can do it!

Even if (statistically) nobody has used your app yet, you can still make it feel familiar and intuitive by using design patterns. Resist the temptation to build something completely new and different just for the sake of being unique. Instead, focus on making your site easy to use by borrowing from what already works.

It will help the people who do find themselves using your software - they will feel more comfortable and confident, which will ultimately lead to a better user experience.

More from UX Legend Jakob Nielsen

Tools for finding design patterns

  • Mobbin is a hand-picked collection of the latest mobile and web design patterns from apps that reflect the best in design.

  • The Webby Awards are a annual awards given to websites and apps that feature best-in-class design and user experience. It is an absolute treasure trove of design inspiration.

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Statistically, nobody has used your app

People spend most of their time on sites and apps other than yours. This means that users prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know.

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