“It has to be like this to achieve consistency”. We always fall on the trap of laziness when we think about consistency. Many times we prefer to go with consistency without even thinking about it.

Consistency is one of the major design principles. But, it can be harmful & bad if we misused it.

Why do we care about consistency?

Let’s first define what is consistency? In the dictionary, consistency is an agreement, harmony, or compatibility, especially correspondence or uniformity among the parts of a complex thing.

In user interface design, unifying the CTAs colors is consistency, using the same font size for a header is consistency & following the known and using known patterns for our designs is consistency.

Consistency is an important design principle, it helps you make your designs:

1- More usable

2- Easier to learn

3- Make your interface intuitive

What is the problem with consistency?

We can divide the problem into two pasts:

Consistency within our interface builds a constraint. Although constraints are not bad, they can divert us from achieving our goal just to follow the rule.

Sometimes, consistency can lead us to design non-usable interfaces just to checklist that our designs are consistent. Example: Following consistency in a place where it makes it more difficult for our users to achieve their goals.

Consistency can be a strong argument to justify our non-usable designs. It’s safer and easier to design consistent experiences than designing usable ones.

Are there perfect design patterns out there? Do we have finally designed the perfect checkout experience? Do we have the most usable sign-up forms? Can we have a pattern that is 100% usable by all humans?

Abosulotly No.

So, why do we stick to design patterns as it is, without even thinking about improving them?

We don’t question the status-quo or think about the problems in current patterns, we use them as they are because they are the norm and no one can critique us for following the crowd.

Do we have to break consistency?

Do we need to neglect consistency and always break the rule? No.

In my opinion, we need to make our designs consistent to achieve usability, easier learning, and intuitiveness.

But, the point is to change our mindset, to question and to think about it.

We need to ask ourselves every time we say “Consistency”, do we follow this principle for the sake of being consistent? Will consistency here achieve user goals? Do we have an easier and usable way to do so?

Consistency is not a goal to achieve, it’s a way to achieve this goal and when consistency stands against this goal, it needs to be broken.

If you don’t know your users, don’t break consistency

We can’t break consistency if we don’t understand our users. How can we break the rule without knowing why we break it?

In his article “Consistency in Design is the Wrong Approach”, Jared Spool argues that understanding users’ current knowledge is a better way to think about problems, as he said:

When you think about consistency, you’re thinking about the product. When you’re thinking about current knowledge, you’re thinking about the user.

Thinking about the previous quote, what is our goal? Designing consistent products or products that help people achieve their goals? It’s obvious.

Also, in NNG “The Power Law of Learning: Consistency vs. Innovation in User Interfaces” article, they provide us with a lot of insights about breaking consistency in our designs and how it relates to innovation.

They suggest three questions to ask yourself before breaking consistency:

1- Will the new design perform much better than the old?

2- Is it credible that users will be willing to try the new design again and again until they have learned it well enough to realize those long-term benefits?

3- Can you speed up learning?

As you see, you can’t answer these questions without knowing so much about your users’ knowledge and goals.

Final thoughts!

It’s all about trade-offs and balance. The most important thing to be aware of is when to break consistency and when to be consistent.

Learn about your users, engage with them and always remember their goals.

VISIT THE SOURCE! — https://uxplanet.org/do-we-use-consistency-in-the-right-way-e75f4f0a40c9

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