Creativity is an essential element for a good web design, but it needs to be tempered with the right amount of consistency. Consistency may actually be the king of all design elements; use it right and you can reinforce your brand, inspire trust, and have a positive impact on your website visitors. Consistency ties together all of your design elements into one single voice for your brand.
It can be tempting to try and break the mold in your website design and be on the cutting edge of design. But online users have learned to expect certain rules as they navigate through websites. It doesn’t matter how groundbreaking or innovative your design is; chances are, if you create an environment that is confusing visitors probably won’t stick around to enjoy it.
Consistency doesn’t have to mean boring or status quo, either. If you can maintain a sense of consistency in the following key areas, you can still push the bounds of your imagination and still keep your website visitors happy.
The Seven Key Areas of Design Consistency
1. Website Layout
The layout of your website design will give your visitors a gut feeling based on elements such as structure, symmetry, line spacing, and fonts. Research from Google found that familiar and simple website designs influenced visitors to stay. In a timeframe as short as 17 to 50 milliseconds, less time than the blink of an eye, visitors either found a site beautiful (if the design was simple and clean), or less beautiful (if the design was more complex).
There is even an expectation of the visual flow of a website layout, and good web design will help the user’s eyes to follow this path with visual cues along the F- or Z-pattern layout. Navigation menus should be found along the top of the page, where users expect to find them.
2. Internal Elements
A visual consistency between color schemes, typography, icons, and even layouts from page to page are internal elements that will keep users happy and your site cohesive. Language should be consistent throughout the site; don’t use “yes” and “no” buttons on one page and then “accept” and “reject” buttons on another.
In addition to a cohesive color story throughout, also pay attention to traditional color symbology, like red on a “reject” button and green on an “accept” button. Even forms, drop-downs, and pop-ups should share the same look, language, and color scheme as the rest of your site. Keeping these elements consistent will create a sense of stability and reliability that will be relaxing to users.
3. Symbols and Functions
A magnifying glass in the upper right corner of a screen. A right-facing triangle on the face of a video. Some symbols have an association, such as “search” or “play” that is universal across websites. Users already know what these mean, and where to find them. If you decide to use a different symbol for “search,” or move it to a new location on your site, you will create chaos for your visitors. Users don’t want to learn what the symbols mean on every site they visit, they look for the universal symbols that already have a known association.
Your ebooks, guides, and other content offers should represent your branding. The same design elements that you use throughout your website should be reflected in any content offers that you present to visitors to your site. Hubspot is a good example of consistent content offers. All of their ebooks have been streamlined for a consistent look, better reading experience, and to protect their content from copyright infringement.
5. Videos, Presentations, and other Media
Media can be a powerful component of your website, and is an opportunity to reinforce your brand message. Videos, images, and even PowerPoint presentations are all elements that can benefit from a cohesive look, and consistent use of color and typography. When all of your media elements are consistent with your brand and message, your website will come across polished and trustworthy.
6. Social media
Your social media accounts are an extension of your website and brand. Providing a visual cue to your visitors can help reinforce your message and brand. The language, cover images, profile images, and content on your social media accounts should mirror that of your website. Your social accounts may be the first point of contact with a potential client, and the method by which they find your site. Give them a consistent style and introduce them to your brand on all of your accounts.
Content is a key area for consistency on your website. Web pages, blog posts, media, and social media posts are all content that can reach potential new customers. There may be instances where you have different people creating content for your brand. If they are all using a voice, style elements, and visual design elements that are dis-harmonious, it will be noticed and disliked by users.
The key to remaining consistent in your web design, content, and social media elements is to define a style and voice for your brand. A brand style-guide can help all of the designers and content creators to stay consistent and cohesive. Establishing a brand style guide might take a little time upfront, but it can save you time in the long run; you won’t have to go back and “fix” elements of the website that are not in harmony with your vision.
Consistency may not sound exciting, and can feel restrictive to creative types, but it is the key to a positive experience for users.