How to Maintain Consistency in Web Design
Consistency exists in all walks of life to orientate us. As we’re getting to know new friends, their consistent behaviour helps us become familiar with their personality; the type of humour they always laugh at or how they react under pressure.
Knowing what to expect from someone, helps you feel like you actually know them. If someone behaved differently every time you met, you would probably find it hard to get to know and trust them… This is the same with a company’s website, and ultimately their brand.
Like getting to know a person, getting to know your way around a website is achieved through consistency. Successful web design, whilst aligning with the company’s branding, makes it easy for a user to access the information they seek. Consistency in design, content and functionality are what creates the familiarity that helps you find your way around.
Consistency in design relates to the colours, typography, layout and imagery style used. Consistency in content means the content is always of the same tone, quality and quantity. Design and Content guidelines are decided at the branding stage so should be coherent across all areas, above and beyond the website. Consistency in functionality ensures that elements always work in the same way wherever they are present (for example, galleries are always displayed in lightboxes or hyperlinks always appear in a certain colour).
In terms of a person’s character, being predictable is often synonymous with being dull and boring. It shouldn’t be thought of in this way for design though. A good branding will restrict styles enough to make the brand recognisable, whilst allowing just enough freedom for creativity. Consistency doesn’t have to mean just using one colour throughout, or only having one size of image on every page, with any luck, your brand guidelines aren’t quite that restrained. You can still work variation into the mix, but it has to be crafted cleverly so that it doesn’t feel like a mishmash of different styles, with lots of one-off elements. As long as the design abides by the brand guidelines and creates a logical experience, creativity should be able to feature.
You should always experiment – that’s what design is all about– there may be a better, more exciting solution. Try different approaches and really think about the purpose of the website and how users should interact with it. Just ensure that experimentation isn’t to the detriment of user experience, for example, moving your navigation around as people move through the website won’t make it more exciting, it will just cause frustration. Things always need to be laid out in a logical and accessible way, but as long as you remember that, the look and feel can still be creative and individual. The task of retaining consistency whilst getting creative is where the fun lies.
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