Like a lot of people, I paid insufficient attention when buying my first tripod and ended up with a cheap job that was neither convenient to lug around nor sufficiently stable to justify the effort. So I rarely used my tripod and my photography suffered for it.
When it came to the inevitable upgrade, I put a bit more effort into research. I found out a bit about materials and stiffness, but also about tripod heads and quick release systems. This resulted in me buying a set of legs by Manfrotto, but without one of their heads. Like many manufacturers, Manfrotto have a proprietary quick release system which is not compatible with other manufacturers’ equipment. I matched my Manfrotto legs with a ball head by Really Right Stuff, who use the Arca Swiss standard for quick release clamps and plates. Every piece of support equipment I have bought since also complies with the Arca Swiss standard. My aluminium Manfrotto legs have long been assigned to home use as I acquired configurations of carbon fibre, and a variety of new heads for different jobs. But, with an ever increasing range of manufacturers adopting the Arca Swiss standard, everything I have is completely interchangeable. This enormously simplifies life when out in the field making photographs.