As you may recall from last semester, I am working on a website redesign for my organization. We’ve made some serious progress, which is really exciting. As we work our way through adding content to the webpages, it is becoming very clear that we need to revisit the principles of usability, more specifically consistency and standards. Consistency and standards are one of Jakob Nielsen’s ten general principles for interaction design. But why should we care about consistency and standards? Two reasons: to reduce learning and to eliminate confusion.
As we build this new site, we have made major improvements to our hierarchy and navigation, but if we don’t have consistency, our users may struggle to quickly learn how to complete tasks across our main site and 9 subsites. According to a recent article by Euphemia Wong, titled, “Principle of Consistency and Standards in User Interface Design,” consistency works to create ease of use by limiting the way actions and operations are represented on a site. The article goes on to say, “establishing design norms like following platform conventions allow users to complete new tasks without having to learn a whole new toolset.” Thus following this principle will make the learning process for the users much more effective and efficient, which ultimately increase satisfaction, and that is our goal!
Another way to ensure user satisfaction is eliminate confusion. Consistency and standards can also help us achieve this goal. Wong explains, “Users tend to apply rules they’ve experienced outside of your website or product, bringing in a set of their own expectations. Knowing that, we should be mindful of whether or not we’re causing confusion and alienation when we deviate from design standards and conventions.” While we have given this some thought during the redesign process, I think we may need to take a deeper look and evaluate if we diminished the time it will take for users figure out the meaning of the words, interactions, and actions on our sites.
So how can we make sure we are abiding by the consistency and standards principle? Well, Wong provides the following recommendations:
- Consider your choice of language
- Apply UI elements as they are originally defined
- Consider various well-established conventions when deciding on layout
- Design for your user’s expectations
- Create consistent visual elements throughout your site
Once we finish our current work with the sites, I plan to create a consistency and standards guidebook so that in the future as pages and content are added to the site, we can maintain a high level of understanding and ease of use for our users.
Wong, Euphemia. “Principle of Consistency and Standards in User Interface Design.” The Interaction Design Foundation, www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/principle-of-consistency-and-standards-in-user-interface-design.
World Leaders in Research-Based User Experience. Do Interface Standards Stifle Design Creativity? www.nngroup.com/articles/do-interface-standards-stifle-design-creativity/.