Unit 1: Intro to Design
Unit 2: Figma Fundamentals
Unit 3: The Creative Process
Unit 4: Color Theory
Unit 5: Introduction to Illustrator
Unit 6: Typography
Unit 7: Layout
Unit 8: Typesetting
Unit 9: User Interface Design
Unit 10: Design Systems
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Consistency

Overwhelmed with the modern world’s rush and the incredible amount of information around, people tend to choose simplicity, sometimes even without thinking about that choice. To reduce the cognitive load, users seek shortcuts, patterns, and models that make interactions with a digital world and numerous channels of communication effortless and straightforward. In user experience design, one of the factors supporting that objective is consistency.

Usability and learnability improve when similar elements have consistent look and function in similar way. When consistency is present in your design, people can transfer knowledge to new contexts and learn new things quickly without pain. This way they can focus on executing the task and not learning how the product UI works every time they switch the context.

We humans like consistency by default. Our physical bodies constantly strive for consistent balance, so we can be healthy. We need to feel that things are consistent to feel secure and safe.

Benefits of consistency

Users will learn faster how to use your design. Imagine, that the consistent elements in your design are the letters of the alphabet. Once, the user has learned the alphabet, he can go anywhere in your product and still be able to communicate with the interface without friction.

Having inconsistent interface is like trying to communicate with the user in several languages. Only the advanced users will be able to finish their tasks.

Consistency eliminates confusion. When the user feels confused the next step is to feel frustration. We don’t want our dear user to feel that, do we?

Consistency saves money and time. Consistent design is frequently built by predefined components. This allows designers and stakeholders to make decisions quickly without spending precious time to argue. This saves time that can be used to build the product and make incremental improvements.

Four types of consistency

Let’s look at four type of consistency that are important to be aware of when designing.

Visual consistency

Similar elements that are perceived the same way make up the visual consistency. It increases learnability of the product. Fonts, sizes, buttons, labeling and similar need to be consistent across the product to keep visual consistency.

Functional consistency

Similar controls that are functioning the same way make up the functional consistency. It increases the predictability of the product. Predictability leads to users feeling safe and secure. For example, the way to go a step back in the flow should function the same way across the product.

Internal consistency

This is the combination of both visual and functional consistency in your product design. It improves the usability and learnability of the product. Even when you introduce new features/pages users will have easy way using them as long as you keep the internal consistency.

External consistency

This type of consistency is achieved when there is design consistency across multiple systems/products. This way the user’s knowledge for one product can be reused in another. Yes, this helps eliminate a lot of the friction and provides great user experience.

Good example of external consistency is the user interface of Adobe products. Once you know Photoshop it is much easier to reuse the same knowledge to start using Illustrator and so on.

Achieving these four types of consistency will help your design gain better usability and more happy users.

How to be consistent

The essence of being consistent is to be able to replicate the same action or element multiple times, and still be able to support the user with achieving the task.

Implement recognizable patterns

People who will be using our designs be it digital or not, have been around for some time. This means they have experienced and learned other designs, and know the patterns used in them.

We should take advantage of that and incorporate familiar patterns into our designs. The user journey will be much smoother and people won’t even stop to think “How do I use this?”, they will directly use it.

Bend consistency, don’t break it

Some might argue that consistency could bore people. If we keep things always consistent there will be almost no innovation.

We first need to learn the rules before we bend them. Yes, bend not break them! Broken consistency equals broken design and user experience.

It is a pain for both the user and the organization. Design process gets slowed down. Tons of money get burned to pay people to argue in meeting rooms over what color is best for that button. Everybody loses precious time to make decisions that should have been made already and just be reused now.

**Designers should preserve and build the consistency as much as possible.**Keeping things consistent means change will be slowed down. Still, we need our product to be enjoyable and delightful. We need them to evolve to a better version.

So, how do we keep consistent and still get to where we want to be and drive change?

The “secret” is in understanding your users and audience. All your design decisions should come from that understanding. Make adjustments to the already established and consistent design system only when they are informed by your user’s needs. Making these small changes will evolve the product into a better version and will keep the consistency.

1. Color

Color is a great way to start creating consistency. A lot of big brands will have one core color they are recognized for. Then maybe 2/3 supporting colors to add visual interest. This can also be applied to a set of illustrations etc. Color is very noticeable and people will connect with it quickly if you use it constantly in a project.

2. Type

Typography is another thing people will notice pretty quickly. Again choosing one core font to use and then a second supporting font will mean viewers make the visual connection but the work can also still look diverse.

Think about a set of posters for a new movie, it would be strange is each poster used a totally different font. People might not realize they are all advertising the same film.

3. Size/ Elements relationship to one another

This one may sound a little weird but a sense of consistency can also be achieved though the size of your design elements/assets. Having the same size titles, images or illustration in a website or publication gives the design rhythm, lets the viewer know what to expect and makes it easy for them to focus on the content. The same could be said of poster design, packaging etc.

4. Using the same imagery across all design material

In a singular design project you may need to create work for websites, print and social media and these should all share the same visual imagery (i.e photos, illustrations, icons.) These don’t need to be used in exactly the same way but again this is a good way to introduce consistency. So if you use a set of icons online make sure you keep using that same set throughout the project.

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