Usability Guidelines: Design Consistency

August 7, 2017

If you take a look around our everyday world, there are consistencies everywhere. Stop signs are octagonal and red. Street signs are long and green, etc.

So when you pull up to a stop sign, do you pause to read it before taking the appropriate action? No, you stop, wait your turn, and go.

But what if the next stop sign you came upon was black and square. Would you pause? Would you be confused? Would you think to yourself, "Is that really a stop sign?"

Probably all of the above.

The purpose of design consistency in a website is to provide a stable base for the user to stand on. They will know what to expect from page to page. They can focus on content rather than spending time finding it because of difference in presentation.

Design consistency takes into account functionality as well. Do buttons behave predictably? Do asynchronous transactions provide the same status indicators?

One of the best ways to implement consistency is to create a style guide. A style guide provides a basis for the creation of new design elements. Included in this should be descriptions of functionalities that would benefit from consistency (drop-down menus, for example).

Consistency is one of those things most users don't notice, but they feel it. They might make comments about this or that because they just can't pinpoint it. But when consistency is applied, it just "feels good" to users.