Convention says “If ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Stretching this a bit further and applying it to conventions themselves, convention says if there’s a convention, just follow it! That’s nicely convenient.
Problem is, any breakthrough mankind has ever achieved has only been possible by breaking away from conventions. If conventions were that sacred, we will all (not just Tom Hanks, Wilson!) still be rubbing wood for fire!
Lets pick a few examples.
If Apple didn’t do away with the conventional keyboard, we wouldn’t have had touchscreen phones (and you could probably recognise one smartphone from another today!).
Closer home, Rahman broke out of the mould that defined how a song had to be structured to catch everyone’s attention and continues to do so even today.
Test cricket was the convention until one-days replaced them.
Conventions are being undone in the TV value chain as we speak.
In my work last year, I was working with designers who, contrary to what I had imagined, like the comfort of convention. We were using a Windows-inspired interface using tiles and I was being told that tiles should not do this or that. The strange thing is that before tiles came into existence, they themselves weren’t part of the user experience vernacular! So why stick to a new set of rules as if they were handed down by Moses in page 3 of the commandments. Another designer was of the opinion that buttons should never have sharp corners! It is true that you will probably never find any site or product with a button that sports sharp corners.
So “If ain’t broke, don’t fix it” might be sound advice unless you don’t know it’s broke until you try to fix it!