Penelope Rance

My UX research & design ramblings

How Important is Consistency?

I do find it a little amusing when designers get upset about fonts not being correct or colours being slightly out on websites.

In my experience, firstly working on a helpdesk and now as a UX researcher, I see over and over again that normal users do not notice or even care.

That is not to say that making things consistent across a site is not important, but I think the importance is over emphasised a little sometimes.

For instance while working on the helpdesk I received a phone call from a lady who was having issues editing her pages on the website. At that point the organisation I worked for had three different systems managing their website, two of which were legacy systems that we were gradually coming off.

My job was helping people to use the legacy systems and help with the content migration.

So going back to this poor lady, she told me the issue and asked if I could come out and help her. So we booked in some time and I wandered over to her department.

She had been very insistent that she was having issues with legacy system A, so imagine my surprise to find it was actually legacy system B. The thing was, they looked very very different. The web pages they produced looked very different and the backend editing tools also looked very different.

I was amazed that she did not know the difference, but managed to help her out so she was happy.

This lady did not really want to be working on websites, it was just a tiny part of her job. What did it matter to her which system it was as long as it worked? And to be honest I do not think she was that worried about what it looked like either, as long as the information that was needed was up there.

On top of this as a researcher I have watched so many people click on links that take them out of the website they were looking at, to a completely different site, and have no idea anything had changed.

So yes as a designer it is your job to make things consistent across the site, but try to keep in mind that most people using it just want to complete their task as quickly as possible. They do not care if the two blues are the same, they just want a straight forward interface.

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