As a dedicated AWS partner to a wide range of local and international clientele, we’ve observed a lot of design trends through the years. Just like a viral social media trend, some are momentary, while some linger on for much longer. This doesn’t mean that the basics are forgotten, though. Fundamental principles, be they in UI/UX design or social media, continue to form the framework for a lot of new elements to be explored and investigated. In the case of UI and UX, for example, inspecting competitor or benchmark applications can reveal what norms exist, in the world of digital navigation. The same elements can of course be used for your own application endeavours, purely because users have subconsciously become accustomed to them.
In other words, if you’re looking to completely alter the manner in which UI elements have been interacted with for a long time, make sure you have a substantial reason to do so! As users acclimatize to certain design elements, these elements become normalized enough to be featured in applications of any scale or sector – simply because they’re familiar and users instinctively take to them when interacting with an application. In a business landscape that’s plentiful with fierce competition, it’s important to cut through the noise and stand out. With the vast majority of consumers dependent on their smart devices, this becomes an even bigger challenge, what with limitless options available out there for users to choose from.
The slightest slip can cause abandonment, so ensuring that every aspect pertaining to your application is up to par is what will determine the overall success of your product/service. In order to achieve maximum engagement to keep your users happy, UI, UX and a streamlined consistency in design play huge roles in achieving these objectives, no doubt. From typography to varying components, every facet has an integral role to play, but knowing when and where to draw the line in the interest of moderation, is key.
In which areas do you stick to what is familiar for users, and where can you exercise more visual creativity? How about colours and themes? Do these need to be implemented as they have been up until now, or is there any leeway to use your imagination for introducing a refreshed look? These questions can be best answered by you (the product owner) and ideally in conjunction with your software developer, provided they’re well-versed with what your unique requirements are. Add to this a gamut of business objectives i.e. what you wish to achieve through your digital application. As a result, you’ll have a complex set of topics to discuss, while brainstorming how you intend to bring it all together.
As intricate as this may be, this will also produce a detailed brief which will ultimately make a world of difference towards the development of your product and its final outcome. But before you dive headlong into the first phase of gathering requirements under the context of consistent UI/UX design, it’s useful to understand the ABCs of what constitutes the very same.
UI and UX designs that are used to serve a set purpose time and time again, while also being known for doing the very same, is what design consistency is all about. This means that users who approach any application know what to accomplish at the sight of certain elements, irrespective of whether the app is one they’ve been using, or a completely new one.
For example, a hamburger menu (a menu button that features 3 lines) is now known for representing the main menu in any website or mobile app. As a result, users are now aware of what 3 lines at the top of the screen mean, no matter where they see it across the digital landscape. Many UI and UX elements have been regularized this way, most often subconsciously, as users take to them and then expect to see the very same when trying to navigate another application.
In other words, when users seek for what they need in any digital application, they are naturally going to approach many regularized elements to navigate through it. Design consistency, therefore, aims to keep users in an environment that is familiar to them, and easy to navigate through as well. This is a win-win situation for both parties (the user and the business) since users will be able to comfortably navigate through to what they need, while also achieving business objectives at the same time.
Does this mean that you will only need to make use of elements that have been tried, tested and regularized, in the interest of being user-friendly? Absolutely not! Certain areas, such as your company and product branding can be a blank canvas for introducing something creative and refreshing. The same also goes for colour schemes, but it is also essential to keep these in line with colours featured on your branding. However, the potential to exercise your imagination is vastly opened at this point, thereby giving you the opportunity to still feature a digital presence that is as unique as your brand.
In turn, this is where the aspect of ‘drawing the line’ comes in. As mentioned before, moderation is key. A competent UI and UX plan will be able to discern where to apply fundamental design principles, and where to apply some imagination for a final product that is functional yet appealing. On an alternative note, design consistency isn’t solely about adhering to the norm in order to keep customers at their comfort level – it is also about striking the right balance of visual elements that are specifically tailored to your brand, in order to stand out from all the options bombarding them on a regular basis.
With familiarity comes comfort, and with comfort comes a streamlined user journey that enables even newbie users to obtain a product or service with minimal confusion. The easier it is to operate an application, the more reliant your users are going to become towards it. In turn, this will help attract new customers faster, while also helping to retain existing ones.
When users become dependent on a digital application that offers precisely what they seek, and with ease, this gives businesses more than just improved sales turnovers. This also greatly leverages brand loyalty – something that is slowly starting to get obsolete thanks to limitless options out there.
To instil loyalty towards your brand in the hearts of your users is a rare but valuable milestone, which if achieved, can truly leverage your brand to a benchmark level. This is very much possible through an intelligently designed digital application – and one that offers consistency for performing any kind of engagement and navigation.
As a key player in the industry of software development in Sri Lanka, we ideally advise our clients to start small – design or not. In the case of design, however, this is even more crucial. Owing to how users will react and psychologically receive your application, many variables come into play, unbeknownst to you and your team. Even if you’ve done your homework to understand your user prior, many unforeseen circumstances can unveil themselves in due course of testing and initial release. This is even more common when it comes to implementing brand new applications, so much so that any forthcoming iterations will require major changes if they haven’t been accounted for.
This can be even more troublesome if you’ve built an intricate product for the first release itself, especially after investing a significant amount of time and money. Any design setbacks may further cause more problems, possibly causing you to even go over budget. That is why it is wise to start off with a Minimal Viable Product, or MVP. Consisting of only the most important features under a lighter release, an MVP is a great starting point for applications of any specialty or size. By keeping it simple and starting small, fundamental design principles that have proven their consistency can then pave the way for enhanced functionalities in the future.
With an MVP being a blank canvas of sorts for improving your digital product as you go, applying only the very basic in UI and UX also matter on another, different context. With numerous design elements regularized as the norm for conducting specific operations, it is advisable to stick to these elements even for your own application. For example, placing the logo anywhere else but on the top left may feel like novelty in theory, but may be out of place in practice.
If you really do have to shift from what has been tried, tested and assured to accomplish a certain task, make sure you have a substantial reason to do so. Your product still has the potential to be unique through creative visual concepts surrounding your brand, its themes as well as colour schemes. Therefore, there is no need to compromise in uniqueness as you’re building any digital application of your choice.
Applying UI/UX design consistency as part of an MVP is a valuable combination that presents the framework for overall enhancement. On top of that, the key purpose of an MVP is to enable smoother improvement of the app, depending on feedback from users. Once you’ve got this foundation set, it is time to start evolving by monitoring how your app is received by the masses, and then making changes to reflect what users are truly looking for. As a result, your app will be a work in progress, always improving based on the statistics you measure across varying demographics, regions and economic climates.
This not only helps you to keep your users satisfied, but also enables your business to stay on top of constantly changing technology trends – another prominent way to heighten brand trust and recognition among your target audiences. Once iterations are established on an ad hoc basis, the perfect balance between what’s consistent in terms of design, what’s in vogue at the moment as well as the specificities surrounding your brand/business form a triangulation of value that can genuinely benchmark what you offer to your consumers.
As your app shifts with the times, it will also need to scale up or down accordingly. Cloud support services today are adept at keeping up, by providing all the infrastructure and other services needed to facilitate your application– from updates to executing tasks based on triggers.
Design consistency is all about UI and UX elements that have been ‘regularized’ by users, be it consciously or instinctively. Many components have become the norm to execute specific tasks. Whether it’s a search bar on the top right-hand corner of any application, or 3 lines to indicate a main menu, users expect certain elements to accomplish a certain task – which they then naturally take to in order to navigate through a digital application. The scope of such design consistency extends far beyond the overall layout of a website, software or mobile app; it affects a whole host of other factors, including your business’s final objectives.
In order to maintain a digital presence that is on par with the norms of design consistency, it is crucial to still strike the right balance between what is foundational and what is unique i.e. your branding. Starting small with an MVP further facilitates design consistency, as what has been tried, tested and assured can then be improved upon based on user feedback. On top of that, this can also satisfy your customers to be loyal towards your brand, retaining them as you stand out from your competitors.