I tried to find matches in the grocery store this week. They weren't with kitchen supplies (like rubber gloves and foil liners for the stove). They also weren't with candles. Employees in this massive superstore weren't sure if the store even had them. I came across a couple of store managers. They wanted to know what I needed the matches for. [Hello -- this is a staple item. Fire was one of the first things humankind discovered. We now have portable fire. Surely there should be little doubt about the need for fire sticks from time to time. What else are people supposed to use to light their candles with? Candles that fill a significant section of the store, I might add.]
Finally, I learned that they were in two places: wooden matches were with camping stuff, and paper matches were in the cigar boutique. Things had been moved for seasonal reasons.
You've likely had this experience -- looking for something simple and being unable to find it. [Just for reference, Bisquick is now with pancake mix, not baking supplies and muffin mixes as one might expect.]
Another grocer in my neighborhood regularly reorganizes the produce section. When asked about this one day by another customer, he explained that 'customers like it.' The other shopper was very clear: grocery shopping is a chore, and you want to complete it as efficiently as possible. Moving things around does not add value, it detracts from value and is highly irritating. Other customers clearly agreed with this sentiment.
What's happening here?
I think the staff in the store get bored, so they move things around because they like it. It keeps them engaged. They get bored putting the stuff in the same place.
It has nothing to do with what customers want.
We do need to keep staff engaged, however, so what's the solution?
The tax man's solution
The tax man changes things every year. New taxes, different deduction rules, you name it. But the basics remain highly consistent. Otherwise voluntary completion would never work.
Actual changes to the flow of forms or the layout are driven by larger considerations, such as usability improvements, not by the need for the form designer to have some creative scope.
Situations that call for novelty and situations that don't
If your consumers are just trying to get a job done, don't make it harder for them by changing processes for no good reason. And make changes one at a time, and as infrequently as possible.
Keep things fresh by having features with special displays. And let staff get as creative as possible with these.
So the produce guy should have a feature table that they change all the time, and get creative with this. but keep the ginger root and the garlic in the same place.
The flip side of this would be places that cry out for novelty. Like the posters in a bus station. If you are a commuter, you have to look at the same stuff twice a day. The more change the better.
Finally, would it kill them to put matches in two places? With the cigars AND with the candles? Hmmm?