Article by Kayleigh Alexandra – content writer for Micro Startups
You don’t want to give the visitors to your website a feeling of quality whiplash, but that’s exactly what happens when you don’t have a steady design philosophy. If one part of the site doesn’t work properly, users will have to question everything else, and if you display one layout on desktops and another on mobile devices, you’ll cause a lot of frustration.
That’s why it’s essential that you find the time and resources to implement and maintain a consistent website design structure. The happier your users are with your website (see some more website tips here), the more likely they’ll be to keep coming back.
Thankfully, though achieving a good level of design consistency might seem daunting, it generally isn’t all that bad. Here’s what you need to do:
Create a document containing your design elements
Choosing designs for numerous different pages can be challenging. You need to make sure that everything draws from the same selection of design elements, which isn’t so bad if you’re operating alone but can be very tricky if there are multiple people working on the designs.
To make it easier to keep everything moving in the same direction, assemble a central document that lists every single design element you want to be consistent throughout your website. You can then refer back to it whenever necessary, and have an entire design team using it for guidance while they work.
You should try to include all of the following:
- Visual elements, such as:
- Color schemes
- Preferred shapes
- Transition effects
- Image styles
- Copy elements, such as:
- Common resources, such as:
- Button designs
Every element you include here should be sufficient for every requirement, so make sure you include resources in the highest-possible quality (including, for instance, a super high-resolution version of your logo).
With all that said, don’t worry about covering absolutely every possible element. You don’t have the time to get that specific, and consistency can only go so far before it starts to make every page look exactly the same.
Use a mobile-first design approach
A common website mistake that businesses make is building their desktop designs first and then trying to adapt them for mobile devices much later. This is entirely backwards, because desktop-friendly layouts are often completely unworkable once reduced to mobile-friendly sizes, while a mobile-friendly layout will work perfectly well at desktop sizes (it will look silly, but it will work, and that’s the most important thing).
As such, start by figuring out how your pages should look and work on mobile screens, then work up to desktop sizes once you’ve done it. You can then make the necessary adjustments to font sizes, spacing and layout. Your users will appreciate being able to go from one device to another without having to handle a completely different look.
Take advantage of responsive templates
Templates are incredibly handy when you’re trying to get quality work done with a limited budget and/or schedule. Instead of building all your layouts from scratch, you can simply take a great design someone else made, update it with your design elements, make a few tweaks, and save a mountain of effort in the process.
The easiest way to use templating to get a consistent website is to build a fresh site using a convenient low-cost builder. Online retailers in particular can benefit enormously from this approach, as it’s easy to start fresh with a new webstore and pick a fully-responsive template to customize accordingly.
If you don’t want to move away from your current site, then you can still benefit from templates. You can find free design templates very easily, make some changes so they’re unique to your business, then add them to the resources section of your design element document. With that small investment of time, you can ensure the internal consistency of every document you create.
Keep everything as simple as possible
In the long run, this is the most important thing you can do to keep your website design consistent, because nothing produces inconsistency like complexity. The more elements you have, the more likely it is that disparities will appear, and the trickier any element is to understand, the harder it will be to implement across different pages and screens.
By keeping your designs minimal, you’ll reduce the amount of time it takes you to reproduce them, lower the likelihood of issues arising, and make your users happier— no one likes trying to figure out how to use a needlessly-convoluted website layout. Taking the simple route is a massive win-win.
Website design consistency is key when you’re trying to build up trust, loyalty and authority with your users, so don’t overlook it. Get all the parts of your website working together to deliver a great user experience and you’ll soon see the business benefits.
Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for Micro Startups — a site that donates all of its web revenue to charities supporting startups, entrepreneurs, and other worthy causes. Check out the blog for your latest dose of growth hacking news. Follow us on Twitter @getmicrostarted.