Let's explore the topic of UI design standardization by drawing a parallel with something familiar: hamburgers! Large fast-food restaurant franchises face a significant challenge in maintaining consistent quality and service across all their locations. Achieving uniformity and standardization can be difficult due to various external factors. However, the effort to attain these goals is commendable.
When you visit a McDonald's, whether it's in the city center or a mall, you expect the snack you always order to have the same taste and quality. You also anticipate a nearly identical level of service at any location you visit. Standardization and consistency in such franchises enhance the user experience and customer satisfaction.
Similarly, in UI design, consistency and standardization play a vital role in delivering the best possible user experience. Without them, confusion and dissatisfaction may arise, leading to usability flaws in your product.
They prevent confusion and ensure user satisfaction, leading to a smoother interaction with your product.
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What does it mean to be consistent and standardized?
Consistency and standardization are essential concepts that span across various aspects of our lives. Consider, for example, our endeavor to lead a healthier lifestyle through improved diet and exercise. To succeed, our actions must align consistently with our intentions. Simply desiring weight loss without taking tangible steps will yield no results.
Likewise, in UX and UI Design, consistency and standardization hold significant value for users, developers, and businesses alike.
Recognizing the importance of consistency and standardization in UX and UI Design empowers us to create cohesive and user-friendly experiences while promoting efficiency within our teams.
Users need consistency
When we speak of consistency and standardization in UI design, we specifically refer to elements like colors, buttons, and typography that maintain uniformity across the interface and throughout the user's experience.
For instance, picture a website where the Search button is positioned in the upper left corner on one page, but unexpectedly shifts to the lower right corner on another page within the same site. This inconsistency can cause confusion and bewilderment among users.
By ensuring consistent placement and appearance of UI elements, we establish a predictable and familiar user experience. Users become accustomed to the layout and behavior of these elements, enabling them to navigate the interface with ease and confidence.
Consistency in UI design ultimately enhances usability and avoids unnecessary user frustration.
In summary, maintaining consistency and standardization in UIs, such as by ensuring consistent positioning of elements like the Search button, is crucial for providing users with a coherent and user-friendly experience.
Thus, consistency and standardization are important for the user, mainly for two reasons:
- Reduce cognitive load: the user does not need to learn to navigate or use their interface in a complex way. The easier the interaction, the better the user's journey and experience.
- Avoid confusion: as in the example of the search button mentioned above. Inconsistency in positioning causes confusion in the user and, therefore, will cause them to give up continuing on the interface.
The importance of UI standardization for developers and the business
When building an interface, developers invest considerable time in designing each crucial component using codes and programming languages. Starting from scratch for every interface, regardless of the client or product, would require an enormous amount of additional work.
To save time and maintain consistency, developers establish standardized elements and a style guide. For example, if a menu has defined specifications and a consistent style, it becomes easier to apply the template to other pages or interfaces within the same product or for different clients.
Consistency and standardization also benefit businesses. By reducing the need for rework, significant time is saved, leading to improved productivity in various areas.
In summary, the advantages of consistency and standardization extend beyond users and positively impact developers and businesses by saving time, enhancing efficiency, and promoting productivity.
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How to Achieve Consistency and Standardization in UI?
There are some basic precautions and concerns to achieve consistency and standardization in UI. Therefore, we have listed 5 main topics that you cannot overlook.
1) Define your voice and tone
This concept is closely related to marketing and UX Writing. An interface is made up of various UI elements that encompass both graphic and textual content.
To begin, it is crucial to understand the brand and product values and establish a consistent language style. You can choose from options such as formal, informal, cool, youthful, conservative, or any other suitable style. Defining the values will determine the appropriate voice to use, ensuring effective communication with the user.
Furthermore, the tone represents the variations in the voice to be employed throughout the user's journey. For instance, you can adopt a more relaxed tone in the introductory text on the first page of a website, while maintaining a balance between seriousness and the cool voice established earlier on a checkout completion page.
By defining the voice and tone, you bring cohesiveness to your interface, enhancing communication with your intended audience or persona.
This consistent approach ensures that the interface effectively reflects the brand identity and resonates with users, making their experience more enjoyable.
2) Consistency in the functionality of elements
Ensuring consistency and standardization in the functionality of elements entails maintaining the same function for each UI element throughout the interface.
For example, buttons, menus, message windows, and scroll bars should consistently perform the expected function as users navigate their experience and journey. When interacting with an interface, we anticipate that these elements will operate in a certain way based on our familiarity with the interface itself or other similar products.
Using the same button for different functions breaks this consistency and can surprise and confuse the user. It is important to remember that not every surprise contributes positively to the user experience.
By maintaining consistent functionality across elements, we create a sense of reliability and familiarity for users. This helps them navigate the interface with confidence and efficiency, leading to a more seamless and satisfactory experience.
3) Meet user expectations
Once surprising the user may not be a good approach, it is important to understand what their expectations are with regard to interaction and journey through the interface.
In this sense, we must pay attention to some important points:
- Follow interaction conventions: this means using communication and interaction standards with which the user is already accustomed, whether on your platform or not. In practice, having conventions means keeping the color red to cancel an operation and green to continue, for example;
- Do not invent standards: to solve problems in your interface, use established standards that are common and familiar to the user. Standards tend to become conventions and create expectations that your interface must meet;
- Do not use a different language: avoid jargon or expressions that users are not familiar with.
4) Visual consistency of elements
Just as we must maintain the consistency of the functionality of interface elements, it is also important to maintain their visual consistency and standardization.
This means that the colors, fonts, backgrounds, and even the content itself have to remain the same within the interface.
Thus, do not change the style of the elements from one page to another of your website, for example. The header must be the same on all pages, with the same colors, the logo the same way, and with the same menus.
It may seem obvious, but there are sites that change their style on each navigation page. So, pay special attention to this.
Tools for establishing consistency and standardization in UI interfaces
Let's discuss how we can facilitate and streamline the development process to highlight the importance of consistency and standardization in UI for the user experience.
A component system allows using the same elements or modules in interface development, which can be shared among multiple individuals.
In simpler terms, it means you don't have to code each element from scratch when creating a new interface. Instead, you can leverage a set of pre-built components. This approach promotes consistency and standardization throughout the design and development process.
With that in mind, here are three tools that can aid you in working with consistency and standardization through a component system:
- Style Guide;
- Atomic Design.
Frameworks are widely utilized tools in the arsenal of UX Designers. Essentially, frameworks are structured templates that offer a range of tools for developers to leverage in diverse projects. These tools encompass familiar elements such as buttons, checkboxes, menus, and panels, all standardized for ease of use and reusability. As a result, frameworks greatly contribute to time-saving during the development process.
In the market, there are several frameworks available, including Bootstrap, Materialize, and Foundation. Regardless of the chosen framework, they all serve as valuable resources for creating interfaces with consistency and standardization.
However, it's essential to be aware of certain drawbacks associated with frameworks:
- Limitations for brand or product-specific development: Frameworks, by nature, consist of standardized elements. Thus, they may not be as useful when developing something tailored to a specific brand or product.
- Programmer-centric nature: Frameworks often prioritize programming language over user-friendliness for designers. This emphasis on coding can pose challenges for designers who have a primary focus on visual aspects.
- Excessive element inclusion: Frameworks may contain an abundance of elements, some of which may ultimately go unused. This surplus can potentially lead to a cluttered and confusing experience for developers.
By recognizing both the benefits and limitations of frameworks, UX Designers can make informed decisions about their utilization, selecting the most suitable approach for each project.
Style guides are another tool that helps with consistency and standardization in UI design.
With a style guide, you can:
- Document all the components of your interface;
- List the UI elements and interactions that occur on the interface;
- Store code parts to be used as a reference.
Thus, a style guide is a document that contains all instructions on the use of elements in products and interfaces. The style guide includes information such as:
- Typography to be used, as well as the voice and tone of your brand and hierarchy of texts;
- A color palette, containing the colors of the brand/product and how to use them, taking into account their variations such as contrast, tones, and shadows;
- How to use responsive layouts, i.e., what are the breakpoints of your interface, for example;
- Buttons, tables, lists, toolbars, menus, windows, messages, etc. In other words, all the essential elements for interface development.
In addition to the list of elements and resources, the style guide also includes deeper instructions on the use of components. This includes:
- Table of contents;
- Instructions on what can be done and what should not be done with each of the elements;
- Instructions on positioning, alignment, and spaces;
- Contextualization notes to describe the circumstances, reasons, and objectives of interface development;
- Code parts to facilitate the development of elements.
The style guide is a very interesting tool to dictate and instruct how to deliver consistency and standardization to your product. But remember that as important as building a style guide is sharing it with your team.
Atomic Design is a concept created by designer Brad Frost.
In this concept, Frost indicates that every interface can be broken down into smaller elements that are essential to its formation.
He draws an analogy between the elements that make up an interface and the elements that make up the universe. Hence the name Atomic Design.
The parallel drawn by Frost can be described as follows:
These are the primary elements of an interface. They cannot be broken down any further or separated from the whole. They are the elemental units for creating an interface.
As an example, we can mention basic HTML elements such as labels, buttons, and inputs. Everything that cannot be broken down further without losing its elemental function.
In nature, molecules are the result of the combination of several atoms. In the same sense, in an interface, molecules are simple UI components created from primary elements.
As an example, we can mention a search field created from labels, buttons, and inputs. The component was formed by several elemental units working together, just as it happens with atoms and molecules in nature.
These are more complex components created from the combination of several molecules or other simpler UI components.
Organisms form entire sections within an interface. For example, specific categories sections within an e-commerce site.
These are layouts created from the positioning of UI components and demonstrate the implicit structure of the interface.
These are the final result of the interface, applying real content to the UI elements and components.
What is the advantage of using Atomic Design?
With regard to consistency and standardization, Atomic Design is important for obtaining a clear separation between the interface structure and its content.
Thus, following the concept of element composition, Atomic Design can become an appropriate tool for creating consistency and standardization of your interface. This is because the construction of the whole is based on the small singular elements that give rise to more complex components.
In this way, you can establish a hierarchical order between the elements and establish their patterns and basic functions within your product/interface.
In addition, Atomic Design allows the creation of a unique language to standardize components, helping to produce an inventory of your interface that contains all the elements used.
Therefore, despite needing more time investment at the beginning, Atomic Design is a very interesting method to create patterns and make your interface and development more consistent.
To learn more about Atomic Design, visit Brad Frost's website.
Beyond Restrictions: unleashing creativity through Consistency
While these practices contribute to increased efficiency and cost reduction, it is important to emphasize that they should not act as restrictions to hinder new ideas and innovative designs.
The objective of standardization and consistency is to enhance the user experience by eliminating cognitive barriers that may cause confusion. However, it is crucial to strike a balance and avoid becoming overly attached to these guidelines to the extent that we cease creating new experiences and designs for our product and users.
Remember, the pursuit of consistency and standardization should complement, rather than stifle, the exploration of novel concepts and innovative approaches. By embracing the principles of consistency and standardization while remaining open to fresh ideas, we can foster continuous growth and improvement in our products, ultimately delivering exceptional experiences to our users.