“Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.” – Dwayne Johnson
Consistency is the principle in which, “systems are more usable and easier to learn when similar parts are expressed in similar ways.” (Lidwell, 2003) Consistency allows consumers to transfer previously-obtained knowledge from one product to another that does the same job. Within consistency there are 4 types that effect usability:
- Aesthetic consistency: when a company uses the same appearance and style to build recognition.
- Functional consistency: when the action and or meaning are consistent, so say buttons on different devices can be easily identifiable.
- Internal consistency: when elements within similar systems are the same ie Airplane safety procedures are generally the same across airlines, creating trust within a system.
- External consistency: extends internal consistency to other parts of the environment
Products that are “new and improved” often succeed if the design is kept relatively consistent with regards to previous designs. “Consistency is responsible for widespread use of ideas and products.” (Horn, 2012) This is because it makes the new product easier for consumers to navigate, rather than having to acquire a new set of skills. Not only that but it makes the job of the developer easier as well if they already have a template to work from. (“Why Consistency is Critical,” 2005)
For instance the implementation of “hierarchical grids” within a website keeps the pages of a website consistent. It keeps the header of a website and the navigation aspects of the website the same despite whatever page you are on within a website. (Evans, Sherin & Lee, 2013) Consistency ensures that over time a product or company will become reliable as they become familiar to a consumer. We like what we can recognize with little to no research. (Bassi, 2011)
While the importance of consistency is irrefutable, that doesn’t mean you can get lazy with the overall creativity. Customers won’t go to your website/product if it is an exact replica of someone else’s, you’ll most likely have a witch hunt after you for plagiarism. Therefore while consistency is important so that customers don’t become frustrated with your website/product, there needs to be a balance between consistency and creativity.
3 Examples of Products that use Consistency
It would be fairly unsafe for test-drivers to take out a car that they were unfamiliar with, so majority of car’s interiors remain the same. While Externally they aren’t necessarily aesthetically consistent, internally they are. Most cars (within Australia), all have their driving side on the left, with the middle of the car having the gears and cup holders, and some kind of radio/stereo system at the front. Functionality-wise the dashboards on most cars remain consistent, so customers can easily identify speed, millage, fuel etc. So for someone who has driven a car before the knowledge should be easily transferable to a new car. Like I said without the consistency of the dashboard and gears within a car, driving a new car would be like learning to drive all over again- disastrous, and if you’re like me, ending with you driving through the kitchen. Thankfully because the interior of a car is quite externally consistent it makes them a usable design.
Since the implementation of ATMs in self-service gas stations, public transport ticketing systems and supermarkets ATMs have been the most popular way to get cash quickly. (“A Brief History of the ATM,” 2015) Whether you use a Bankwest ATM or a Commonwealth ATM and whether you’re using them in Australia or Nigeria, ATM’s have stayed fairly consistent world-wide. Aesthetics-wise there is always a display screen showing you your options, a key pad below and below that, the cash dispenser. Functionality wise they all do the same thing, which is give you the ability to take cash out from your bank account, check your bank balance, transfer money over etc. It helps that all ATMs are externally consistent so people can use them wherever they are in the world without the struggle of a language barrier; plus its just far more convenient then going in to your local bank.
Again, around the world street signs stay relatively consistent. Aesthetically speaking their design and colour scheme is left quite basic and bold so they are easily identifiable to drivers and pedestrians. “Aesthteic consistency enhances recognition… and sets emotional responses.” (Lidwell, 2003) For example the red (stop) of a traffic light is consistent with the red of a Stop sign, and the yellow (caution/hazard) of a traffic light is consistent with hazard signs (ig Caution: Kangaroos). The aesthetic consistency helps with the functional consistency as drivers and pedestrians can use their previous knowledge from other signs to translate new road signs. For instance regardless of the image if a sign is yellow it’s assumed that there is a potential hazard ahead so be vigilant. Street signs are pretty consistent worldwide and hence have that external consistency so tourists can safely drive our roads.
Car Interior Design, (2017). Retrieved from http://www.toyota.com.au/kluger/features/interior-design
A Brief History of the ATM, (2015). Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/03/a-brief-history-of-the-atm/388547/
Top 15 Uses of Automated Teller Machine (ATM), (2015). Retrieved from http://www.naijaonlinebiz.com/15-top-uses-of-automated-teller-machine-atm/
Road signs for cycling in the Netherlands, (2012). Retrieved from https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/road-signs-for-cycling-in-the-netherlands/
Lidwell, W., Holden, K., & Butler, J. (2003). Aesthetic-Usability Effect. In Universal Principles of Design (pp. 46). Massachusets: Rockport.
Horn, R. E. The Principle of Consistency and the Conditions for Creativity Retrieved May 18, 2012, from http://web.stanford.edu/~rhorn/a/topic/stwrtng_infomap/artclCnstncyCondtnsFrCreat.pdf
Why Consistency is Critical, (2005). Retrieved from https://www.sitepoint.com/why-consistency-is-critical/
Evans, P., & Sherin, A. (2013). The graphic design reference & specification book. Beverly, MA: Rockport.
Bassi, L. (2011). Good company : Business success in the worthiness era (1st ed. ed., A bK business book). San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.