5 UX Best Practices: Design Consistency

Design consistency is important for user experience

Why you need to understand how the human mind works

Illustration of a woman making a "no" gesture with her arms at a man pointing away at a signpost.
It can be exciting to develop innovative ways to design your website. Each page is developed to suit the user’s needs. Whether they are looking for directions to a brick and mortar storefront or want to learn more about the business, it’s a good idea to optimize their experience. However, if there are no unifying markers across every page, your users may give up on your website. Ultimately, they give up on the product you are presenting. In essence, if you’re not designing consistently, you may be making it harder for your users.

The more your users must use recall rather than recognition to use your website, the more effort they must exert to memorize how to obtain information and utilize it. When objects and actions give more cues, the user’s memory can access the information quicker. In essence, if the user was taking a test, they would use recall for the written portion, and recognition for the multiple choice.

“If you create a website with various design systems, your users will need to switch their thinking modes, which your users must memorize and recall, constantly, instead of having a smooth journey to whatever information they need.”
– Standard Beagle

Colorful pages can draw peoples’ eyes.

Implementing drop of color theory can evoke the appropriate emotion to direct the user’s feelings about the website. Using colors indiscriminately, however, may give your website the impression of a Jackson Pollock painting. A red button on the homepage may draw your user to a CTA. Yet if a red button on a different page to submit information means the form is missing some fills, the color is no longer a useful direction.

If you do not have a comprehensive style guide to influence a consistent design, your development team may not be in agreement. There may be no unified opinion on site wide color theory, element size, or even fonts. A style guide can reign in overly ambitious design to create a clear and consistent brand. In addition, future iterations can fall back on it for reference.

Standardizing design layouts help the user navigate an experience with less friction.

While it’s easier to use a standard layout for each type of page to suit your needs, your website may appear haphazardly put together to others.

For example, your homepage, “about us” page, and FAQ page may have similar color schemes to keep them similarly branded.  Your homepage may have long scrolling content centered within large margins. But your “about us” page has a wide side-scrolling carousel and your FAQ page is formatted like a blog, users will spend more time trying to understand how they’re supposed to read information. Individual pages sometimes benefit stylistically by being dissimilar. But your users will have to read it as if going from a movie poster to a novel page to a newspaper ad.

Picking a cohesive style will not only help your users find information quicker, but can unify your website to convey a single concept; whether you need to promote a business, sell a product, or educate your user.

Different modes of navigation will create a user maze rather than a smooth experience.

Using different modes of navigation from page to page will create a user maze rather than a smooth user flow.  It may be tempting to move navigation bars and menus to improve the appearance of individual pages. However, users will need to learn how to find the information they need on each page they visit.

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Consider simpler chunking of information and more robust information architecture. This removes the allure of placing large navigation elements that need to be moved around to fit each page. With a simpler system in place site wide, recognizing navigation will be easier than making your user hunt for it.

Considerations to have when rebranding your product or website.

Rebranding can be an exciting change for the better for you and your users. It takes a lot of work to deconstruct the most important parts of your website and rebuild them to be more user-friendly and pleasing to look at. An issue with changing the most important information is that the other parts of the website must also be updated if they are to be kept. Clicking links to tabs out to older, less used pages that have not been updated with the rest of the website gives the appearance of an incomplete website. Ultimately, it gives off a sense of illegitimacy.

Updating all pages or cutting pages that no longer serve their purpose can simplify the product. Moving information that is still relevant and reexamining the existing site’s information architecture will keep necessary information. This will take more time and effort to publish, but users will feel more at ease with the stylistic consistency.

A recap of why design consistency is important for the user experience.

Inconsistency across a website can feel unprofessional and confusing to your user, and you may lose their trust. Inconsistent elements put a larger mental load on your users to puzzle out. Ultimately, your users are turned away from your brand and products. By going the extra mile to unify your website in both UI and UX, you can strengthen your users’ faith in your willingness to work for their best interests.