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Why is consistency important in web design?

Consistency is a golden-rule in design. To provide a quality experience to your users it is essential that you are consistent in both design and content of your websites. Consistency is the biggest factor that separates a negative experience from a positive one.

Consistency
1. Logical coherence and accordance.
2. A harmonious uniformity or agreement among things or parts.


Think of it like this: You’re at home in your kitchen and you’ve just prepared a meal. You open your cutlery drawer to collect a knife and fork and you begin to enjoy your meal. It didn’t take you hours to find your cutlery because you instinctively knew exactly where it would be. The cutlery was in the same place as it was last week, and the week before that, and the week before that. You managed to quickly complete this task, almost subconsciously, because it was a consistent design experience.

The same instinctive user-experience should be apparent on your website too. It’s important to remember though, just because you know where your content is, doesn’t necessarily mean everyone else knows. A consistent website is familiar for users and therefore easily navigable. Users should be able to find the information that they’re searching for effortlessly.

Where should you be consistent?

Elements

Web elements are the building blocks essentials for a website. Patterns including, header, footer, sidebar, and navigation bar. Web elements are the core framework of your website and they should be kept in the same place to ensure a consistent user experience. Usability of your website should be logical and this can be accomplished with consistency.

bbc-web

The BBC changes the look and feel between their products, but their web elements are consistently in the same place.

Design

inconsistent-design

The visual design of your website should be consistent. Users become familiar with the small details of your site. They’ll associate a specific colour as your “link colour”, they’ll come to recognise the typeface of your body copy, etc.

Therefore, being consistent with the small details will not only contribute to a great-looking design, but it’ll also provide a more familiar experience for users.

The picture above illustrates this point perfectly. Using three different typefaces in one part of your site is not only confusing to the user, it’s incorrect design practice. There’s nothing wrong with experimentation but keep it coherent with the rest of the design.

Content

consistent-content

The content on your site should be consistent in tone, mood, quality, and quantity. Users get used to the tone and content of your website. If the design of the site is funny and laid back, your writing should reflect that. The content should also reflect and compliment the design.

The quality of your content is something else to meditate on. People visit your site because it fills a particular need they have and if the quality of your content is slipping, they’ll find somewhere else to fill that need. The content you publish should always be of good quality and interesting. If not, no one will return.

Readers get used to your posting schedule or the quantity of your articles. They know when to expect something new and this affects not only the user experience but the loyalty of your visitors.

Interaction

The interaction of your site should be consistent too. Each user will choose to interact with your website differently; however, the way in which your website responds should be identical.

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For example, if a few of your external links open in a new window, consider extending this behaviour to all external links on your website. Decide how you’d like to display pictures, whether that be in a lightbox, a new tab or on a photo viewing service and then follow suit throughout. Ask yourself, “How do I want [X] to act?”.

This is a great time to evaluate how users will want your site to behave. Remember, the whole point is to make the experience gratifying for them.

Why should you be consistent?

Users should feel comfortable when they visit your site. They should feel that your site is designed, arranged, and filled with logical information that they know how to get to. When you are consistent, you make your users happy which will compel them to return.

People notice when you take the time to make your site user-friendly. I’m positive that if you put this article’s advice into practice, you’ll find it much easier to find and retain loyal, consistent visitors.

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