Where you place the buttons for your new video conferencing tool won’t help you gain market share from zoom.

There is this thing with designers when they feel that, just because an interaction has been done by a competitor they can’t reuse it. They would try to come up with something original, but because coming up with something original takes a lot of effort and can’t be done in a tight timeline, they come up with something half baked that is somewhat original, but is not well thought out and does not even serve the use case well.

Sample conversation with a designer I had once:
Me: Why did you put this particular interaction? This doesn’t seem good for the user and I think x is already a solved problem and we need not reinvent the wheel. Designer: Oh! but the competitor already has done this interaction.

I know, deep down they are thinking “if I put this on my portfolio website no one will think I did something original, just copied the market leader”.

The worst is when the designers try to be original, but they don’t consider the edge cases and come up with a design that is not well thought out. What we have to understand as product builder is that what wins in the market is not the most original and innovative design, be it interface or interactions. What actually helps a startup win is, making decisions that are best for the user. You don’t need to compromise usability over originality to do what’s best for your user.

If you don’t have time to build something that is going to be a gamechanger or the differentiation is not the product anyway but instead the business mode or distribution strategy, then it is a fool’s errand trying to be half original. For example, if you were building a new video conferencing tool, will you try to innovate on how the screen share feature works or will you build a game-changing feature? You can even copy what zoom has but with different positioning; say design the most secure video conferencing tool but for bank employees.

This is hard for designers and even PMs to accept.

Related: You should copy your competitors