In this article, I’ll give you tips on how to bring consistency in your design in order to create a friendly interface that users quickly understand. These advice will help you make your website or app more reliable, thus more effective. It’s a win-win situation.
1. Make it match your branding
Your digital interface must reflect your branding. Users should be able to instantly make a connection between your website or app and your other communication tools (business cards, brochures, flyers…). One of the easiest thing to do is follow your visual identity guidelines and use the same logo, fonts and colors. Try to stay consistent in your brand’s vocabulary and tone as well. If you’re funny on paper, why should you be boring on the web?
2. Find your style and stick to it!
Lack of consistency can bring lack of credibility. There’s nothing worse than an interface with multiple styles. I’m talking about call to actions with different rollovers, colors that don’t match, too many font sizes, different photo sets… Keep in mind that buttons, menus, typefaces, shapes, spaces, visual materials, etc. should be consistent through your entire website or app. Following this advice will make your overall UI visually prettier and smoother, but also more professional. Nobody likes a pizza-looking design. Think clean, simple but not simplistic. What triggers me the most as a designer is the misuse of icons. More often than never, designers don’t pay enough attention to those little UI elements. With online platforms offering for free and instantly hundreds of icons, we’ve become so lazy that not only we don’t bother designing custom icons anymore, but we don’t even care to pick them from a single set. Unfortunately, the devil is in the details and using a bunch of different icon families leads to confusion and unreliability. So make sure you’re taking the time to create personalized icons or select them from a unique set.
3. Avoid surprises
One of my first job as a designer was magazine editing. Well, let me tell you that it taught me a lot of things, including being smart, sharp and more important, organized. The best advice I could give to a fellow designer is to make sure you plan ahead your grid and UI kit according to your content. There’s nothing worse than realizing in a middle of a job that you forgot about something. So set rules, patterns, respect your design principles and restrain yourself from going wild. If you tend to have your sidebar on the right side, don’t suddenly switch it to the left. If you’re displaying a newsletter subscription form in your footer, make it appear on every pages. Moving, changing or even completely removing elements will affect visual hierarchy and confuse users. Consistency in layouts will help them get around faster, avoiding surprises in the navigation experience.
4. Follow standards
Users will visit your website or your app with expectations from their past experiences. Use it to your advantage and avoid reinventing the wheel. Not only will you save time but you’ll limit friction and make it easier for your visitors to navigate through your interface. You’ll make your user experience far more enjoyable and intuitive by preventing users from learning new representations for common tasks. Standards go from elements placements (navigation should be at the top) to icons (we’re in 2017, yet in our minds we still associate a floppy disk icon to a “Save” action). Remember that old habits die hard, so try to be creative while limiting artsy and uncommon design.
5. Slip into your users skin
My last advice is probably the most important one as it is in my opinion the core of the UX/UI process: get to know your users. Period. Don’t conceive a design based on your experiences and assumptions. Be empathic instead. A kick-ass UI will not be enough if the UX behind has no brain and does not answer your target’s behaviours, needs and interests. To increase usability and create a meaningful and enjoyable experience, you need to conceive a familiar design and interface. It literally took me months to get around Snapchat while kids are using it with their eyes closed. What does it tell you? Teenagers are far more educated to mobile interactions and tech savvy apps than the rest of us. Keep in mind your target’s habits as they are not necessarily the same between generations nor countries. Get into your users’ shoes and respect them: they are far more likely to trust you and be engaged if you give them what they want, know and expect.
A consistent user interface is a matter to take to heart if you want your users to enjoy their time and trust you. Follow those advice and quickly improve your overall UX and UI design:
- get to know your users;
- be creative but don’t reinvent the wheel;
- plan ahead your grid and UI elements;
- create a strong styleguide that follows your branding;
- pay attention to details.