What is the user experience like on the sites your users use most?
Take a second and think about the most used web apps today. Facebook comes to mind as one that your users interact with daily. This poses a huge advantage to you as the UX designer since you are familiar with the same product your users use on a consistent basis. Your users will be familiar with certain features they frequently use like uploading/sharing photos, adding friends, status updates, browsing the news feed, being aware of notifications, changing their profile picture, etc. Those are possibly features your site also has. So why is it that you are trying to recreate the wheel when it comes to implementing those features? If your users are already familiar with what it takes to change their photo, why make it harder for them?
We are seeing a trend in web design and product development where interacting with software in certain ways are becoming standard. Navigation always being on top rather than on the side is one. I personally believe that navigation serves one purpose, to help the user navigate to important and frequently used portions of the site. You might be thinking well that was obvious yet time and time again you will see navigation playing a huge aesthetic and design role on websites today. It should take up the least amount of space as possible to leave room on the rest of the layout to help the user accomplish what they want to do.
It’s already distracting trying to accomplish what you want without having pretty navigation become another hurdle. Things like notifications, profiles, and branding have become a new standard when it comes to navigation bars.
Think about what your audience uses every day, and see how you can incorporate those familiar user experiences into your products so they naturally make sense.
Lastly, I am not advocating to stop thinking outside of the box. Just make it easier for the user to accomplish what they came to do on your site.