Great article on UX (at Smashing Magzine) from Charles Hannon.
We should not be held to existing patterns just because the human brain prefers it. But we can design according to our developing understanding of how the brain functions.
This is simple, really. We need to better understand the primary receiver that we’re transmitting to: the human brain, and adjust to it as it evolves. Otherwise, we have no clue what kinds of signals to transmit to make sure our message is received.
I recall a keynote from Dr. John Medina in which he highlighted how very little we actually know about the human brain. But we’re learning more at an increasing pace. We need to use that information to improve communication, learning, design.
We can progress gradually, building on fundamental elements of existing designs so that new interaction designs retain enough of the old that our brains still recognize them.
We’re seeing this with mobile navigation. Which navigation pattern should we use? Which icon do we use? The brain never really needed an icon for a menu until smart phones came to be. We can introduce something new, but in most cases, we need to relate it to something old and familiar.
Most importantly, we need to understand the brain (as much as possible), and how it functions, in order to design for it.