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5 Tips to Help You Implement Consistency in Your Web Design

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Charlie Brown
July 31, 2017


Charlie Brown

The author is a qualified business web design expert with over a decade of web design experience under his belt. He has also shared useful content on the subject in many different platforms. In his spare time, he likes to spend time with his family and curl up with a good book and some hot chocolate.

Charlie Brown has written 2 articles for JavaScriptSearch.
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The importance of consistency in digital interfaces cannot be overstated. People who are surfing the internet will encounter hundreds of websites with different styles, even though the core elements will be rather similar. Many business web design professionals don’t give second thought to most of these elements, only knowing that they must exist: CTA buttons/sections, page headers, body copy, navigation menus, etc.

Designing consistently is about creating interfaces which boost/foster typical user habits. You will create layouts that build trust and communicate repeatable patterns to users so that they can quickly and easily navigate your site to find what they need.

  1. 1.      Consistency with user expectations

Majority of users will expect certain general things from a website, for example, links should lead to relevant pages, pages should scroll vertically, copy should fit the device width (no horizontal scrolling), navigation should be easily visible from the top and throughout the browsing experience, etc.

How you implement these expectations entirely depends on you. When you’re designing with consistency in mind, however, you must ensure that you have a clear and uniform design throughout your page/site layout.

Visual consistency can be created by ensuring that all your pages within the site have the same design and navigation patters so that users are not thrown off when moving through different pages. This is especially important for sites with many services/portions, e.g. online blog/help/guides, ecommerce services, forums, etc.

Your users don’t want to have to think; they want to act and get results, and consistent design can help with this. It’s important to think about your users’ needs and then design in a way to meet those needs and encourage your end goal, e.g. users to checkout items from your ecommerce shop or to keep reading your blog. You can carry out tests using actual web users to illuminate any challenges they are facing depending on the reason for visiting your site.

Look at this website: Sketch. Their homepage is consistent with the particular user expectations of their audience. There are two CTAs, to buy the program and to download the demo. For those that don’t want to do either, there’s the top navigation. A visitor might be interested in know how sketch works and its features, while a return user may be interested in getting support or extensions.

  1. 2.      Consistency in redesign

Your elements should be consistent and working towards fulfilling very clear goals depending on what the user wants to do on your site. Even when redesigning your layouts, it’s important to ensure that many of the elements remain where users see them. This means that you must put a lot of thought into the original design so that all you’re doing is making small changes to optimize performance and improve user experience (UX).

Consider Reddit, a social news site that has been around for more than ten years. While there have been many changes over time, the general look and feel of the site remains almost the same as it was when it began. Any drastic changes will throw off your regular audience and must only be done when the benefits far outweigh the risks. Even so, consider rolling out changes in phases instead of implementing them all at once.

  1. 3.      Consistency in navigation

Your site header alone should give considerable information to users regarding your website. You should state what the site does or covers, as well as include the most important navigation links. It isn’t enough to have well-designed navigations; they must be fortified by great copy to sell those pages and alert visitors regarding what you have on your site.

There are many ways to restyle navigation text such as text style, font size and interface elements such as hamburger menus in responsive design navigations. The important thing is to ensure that these links are easy to find and use, especially when it’s necessary to have a lot of detail.

For instance, you can have navigation links include some descriptions when users are on larger screens. For smaller devices, however, you can have hamburger sliding menus with simple link information. Sub-menus or links can be added to larger navigation menus, directly underneath or to the side. Just ensure that link levels are observed in different categories/menu items. In time, the user will become familiar enough to know where to go depending on what they’re looking for.

  1. 4.      Consistency in layout styles

This technique will be useful for both small sites with singular landing pages as well as larger multi-paged sites. Your aim is to have similar elements being used in the pages, only changing up graphics and content according to the page.

Repeating these styles essentially creates a theme in the site and makes users comfortable as they move along your site. Remember that consistency breeds familiarity, which is what you want. You can have slight differences in colours, but major styles should be repeated across elements.

Apart from page elements, you can also repeat styles during your design. For instance, you can have all headers have small underlines and ensure your text is similarly sized for different levels (header1, header2, body copy. etc.). If you apply an effect, such as box shadow effect, you should ensure that this is replicated in all you pages for visual consistency.

However, it’s important to say that rather than getting lost in repeating your page elements, find ways to improve UX on your interfaces, and then ensure these patterns are replicated elsewhere in your site.

  1. 5.      Consistency in branding

Finally, branding is more than just about creating brand identity. It is ensuring that textures, typefaces, colours, icons/elements and padding have some relation to your brand. There aren’t any right or wrong branding methods; some just work better on some sites but not others.

You will see this when you visit MailChimp, for instance. Their branded monkey friend is placed everywhere, and the site features top fixed navigation which includes their logo on all pages. You will notice typeface colours and designs are the same, as are text styles. They seem like small things, but they actually go a long way in reinforcing (or confusing) your brand identity.

Conclusion

Study some of your favourite sites with these tips in mind. You’ll notice some subtle gems you hadn’t noticed before, things which make these sites easy to navigate and love. You’ll also get some useful ideas that can inspire your own creative journey towards increasing consistency in your works. Because every project is different, consider users’ requirements before coming up with any designs.


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