Consistency in Web Design

There’s tremendous value in consistency of digital interfaces. People browsing the web encounter dozens of websites that all have different styles, yet most feature very similar page elements.

Most designers don’t even think about these features. Page headers, navigation menus, body copy, CTA buttons, the list seems endless.

By designing with consistency you’ll learn how to create interfaces that encourage typical user behaviors. Your layouts will build trust and teach users repeatable patterns that help them work through your site much quicker.

Design For User Expectations

Most users expect websites to work a certain way. It should scroll vertically, links should be clickable, and the navigation should be visible right from the first page load.

How you design these expectations is completely up to you. But when you’re designing for consistency you want to keep a clear uniform design across the entire layout.

This site has many portals linking to their forums, their eCommerce shop, and their online help guides. All of these pages have the same design and the same navigation to keep them consistent with the entire site.

Users don’t want to think. They just want to act and get results. Consistent design helps this happen.

Do the thinking for your user to understand what they need. How would you design a blog page to encourage reading? What about an ecommerce shop to encourage checkouts?

Think about these questions yourself and apply them to your web projects. Which elements should be consistent on every page? This line of thinking always leads to solutions.

The homepage of Sketch is very consistent with certain user behaviors and expectations. The page has two CTAs: one for downloading a demo and one for buying the program.

But not everyone who visits the site wants either of those options. The top nav becomes the obvious next step.

Someone new to the site might care about features or how Sketch works. But an existing user might want to look into extensions or get support.

Intuitive Navigation

Users should understand a lot about your site just from the header. This area should explain what the site does and what it’s about, not to mention the top navigation links.

A well-designed navigation isn’t enough. You’ll also want great copy to sell the pages and let visitors know exactly what’s on your site.

Nav text can be restyled in my ways including font size, writing style, and interface elements like hamburger menus for responsive navigations. The key is to stay consistent and keep these links easy to use

When you browse through any of the top categories you’ll get a sub-menu directly underneath. This can work like a breadcrumbs bar or sub-categories based on the primary link.

The consistent style and multi-link menus are great for big sites and blogs. As users get familiar with those links they’ll have an easier time browsing through content.

Repeat Layout Styles

This technique breeds consistency and it can work on multi-page sites or singular landing pages.

The goal is to re-use similar elements all throughout the page, but with different content & graphics.

By repeating certain styles you’re creating a theme on the site and building comfort with users. Consistency breeds familiarity and this is what you should be going for.

Notice the repeated patterns on the Webflow homepage that alternate between colors and different design styles.

Each section features a screenshot of the app listed alongside main site content. This style is beautiful and it’s one of the cleaner ways to craft a consistent design.

Note this style is predominantly found on the Webflow homepage but it could be repeated elsewhere. That’s why consistent elements are easier to use across the whole site.

But aside from page elements you can also repeat styles in your design. Take a look at Algolia for one example.

This site uses heavy diagonal lines between page sections along with darker background colors. Headers all have a small underline and the text all follows a similar size & thickness.

If you dig deeper into the site you’ll notice the box shadow effect is replicated throughout. This is a small touch but it’s one of the easiest ways to build visual consistency.

Try not to get too lost in repetitive page elements.

Instead think about how you can make the interface easier to use and what that might entail. Most of the time you clone what you’ve already done and keep using those patterns.

Keep Branding Consistent

You also need to consider page colors, textures, typefaces, padding, and icons/elements related to the brand. There are no right or wrong ways to brand, just some ways that work better for some websites.

MailChimp does this by repeating their branded monkey friend everywhere. The site has a fixed top navigation which includes this logo on every page.

But you’ll also notice similar typeface designs and colors with similar text styles. This may seem like an obvious thing to do, but some designers underestimate how much this can impact branding.