The value of consistency in design has considerably heightened over the past years owing to the increased focus on creating better user experiences. Consistent designs get familiar to users who adapt to patterns and standards that have been used previously. This makes it easier for them to use the designs and explore them in a manner that the designer intended.
I’m Saad Raja, a well-experienced designer in the UI/UX field, and I have developed a few tips for designers that will help them ensure consistency in their designs.
1) Keep user expectations in mind
Every user has certain levels of expectations whenever they approach a site; it will have clear navigation right from the first page, all the links will be accessible, the site will scroll vertically etc. The decision of how to incorporate user expectations into a design is totally up to you. However, for a consistent design, you should keep everything in a uniform layout. For example, all pages should have the same design and navigation should remain similar throughout the site. Since users do not want to invest their time in thinking about your site a lot, make sure that your designs are consistent with user expectations and behaviors so that they can quickly take the desired actions.
2) Check your color choices
Color remains one of the most significant features to influence the visual recognition of any design. When ensuring consistency in designs, colors need to be kept consistent with their functions. For example, green will always mean accept and red will symbolize rejection. Also, the color scheme on the site overall should not heavily deviate from one page to another. Using the colors that are associated with the user impression of your brand is a good way of identification. Popular brands like Coca-Cola and Facebook have their own distinct color identities. For an effective color palette, choose a dominant color and then add secondary colors to it using the color theory.
3) Provide intuitive navigation
The minute a user approaches your site, he should know what it’s about. The header of your landing page should be enough to tell visitors what the site is and what it does. It should also contain top navigation links which should be easy to use so that the users can make their way around the site without much difficulty.
4) Focus on typography
To ensure consistency through typography, you need not only pick an appropriate style but also pay close attention to the size, spacing and positioning as well. Your typography should fall into place with the H1, H2, H3, body and other related options, i.e. different headlines and body texts should be distinguished properly with distinct typography. Further, for the navigation bar, make sure that you use the same typeface on every page otherwise, the users will get confused.
5) Use familiar layouts
For every page in your site, use similar elements and layouts with different content and graphics to build an overall theme for the site to which users can relate. Repeating layouts and other elements will help in building comfort with the users which is the main objective of consistency in designs. Other elements of design like buttons, and icon sets should be kept consistent with their functions too, i.e. using two different types of buttons for ‘Submit’ on different pages is likely to confuse the user.
6) Use appropriate language
The choice of your word selection should not vary greatly throughout your site. For example, if you are posing a Yes or No option for a user on one page, do not go for an Accept or Reject on another page.
7) Observe the size of elements
The size of elements of the site should stay consistent. A common size will let users observe patterns and create a visual flow. Also, it helps in the creation of a balance which keeps the user engaged by making the design easy to understand and follow.
8) Build an effective interaction
Your site is your means of interacting with your users or a type of digital conversation. For this purpose, it is crucial for designers to consider effective interaction with their visitors. Any inconsistencies in design among any elements like animations or dialogue boxes are capable of ruining this experience for the users.
9) Use space properly
Space is equally important as any other element on your websites. Lack of excess of space can make any design look chaotic. It is very unpleasant to look at designs that are either overcrowded with content or have little structure and organization with some images overlapping one another while some have too much space in between them. This is why spacing plays an essential role in maintaining the consistency of designs. For a consistent design, you need to follow common spacing rules by making use of a grid system. It will assist you in determining how to place elements in a balanced manner. Both horizontal and vertical spacing needs to be analyzed before any designs are made public.
10) Add common user interface elements
For any design to be consistent, it is necessary that all interface elements behave similarly. For example, every link on the site should either open directly or on a new tab, but a combination of both should not be used across different pages. The color of buttons should not vary from page to page and neither should the location of the navigation tools bar. Clickable elements should always click no matter what page of the site you are on. Other things that designers should consider include the size of the footers, sidebars and icons.
You can find more helpful articles from him at his own blog: http://saadraja.co/blog