If you’re like me at all, you probably want to build websites faster every time you build one.
After all, time is money and a fast build means a higher profit margin – especially if you charge a flat rate fee.
I’ve learned through years of building hundreds of websites that the key to building fast and building for the best UX is the same answer – consistency.
Consistency – the Golden Rule of Design
If you’ve ever worked in a team or agency environment, you’ve probably dealt with a variety of graphic designers from all skillsets. I worked one place that hired mostly print designers and they did their best to understand the difference of digital.
One thing I often found myself (a web developer by trade, not a graphic designer) teaching designers at a few places was the importance of consistency across an entire website.
Let me explain.
If you design a beautiful homepage where the Heading 1 is say 80px at the desktop size, every H1 across the website should be the same size.
If you set a Heading 2 over the funnel sections to be 40px, then every single Heading 2 throughout the website should be that same size.
If a button on the homepage is red with white text, all of the buttons throughout the website should be the same. Personally, I like to make the link text the same color as the button backround (red = click this).
On your homepage and every page throughout a website, you’re teaching your users what they can click, what’s important and what’s less so, what separates out main ideas, and so on. If that changes from page to page (and believe me, I’ve had to build sites like that before), it causes users to get confused and not really understand what goes where and what means what.
Think of consistency like this – if you put your batteries in the junk drawer (don’t lie, we all have them), you know that all of your batteries go there. But when you get a new roommate or move in with a romantic partner and they start to move things – like the batteries in a different spot – suddenly you don’t know where those things are.
Websites are the same. When someone lands on a website you’ve built, they need to be able to do what they want or find what they want quickly. Consistency in design creates an instinctual user experience; it creates a feeling of familiar and makes it easier to navigate and find what they’re looking for – even if they’ve never been on your website before.
What Elements Should be Consistent?
Let’s break this down a little further. As I mentioned above, your font sizes should be consistent throughout your website and theoretically your buttons and links should be, too. But what else do you want to keep consistent?
- The header and navigation needs to stay the same on all pages. Don’t hide a link and make it so they can’t get there if they click to the wrong page on your website.
- Footer and sidebar (if you have one) help to make your websites dummy proof and logical.
- Overall design should feel consistent – your fonts and colors should stay consistent throughout the site. Same hexcodes, same sizes and typefaces.
- How they interact with your site – do they click a button? Does something move or is it animated? Does something pop open or drop down?
- Pictures – yes, even your pictures – should have a similar tone and feel.
Your Content Should be Consistent, Too
This actually applies to all of your marketing, but keeping the content consistent throughout your website is not only big for UX but also increasing conversions. The tone, mood, quality, and even quantity should stay the same throughout your site (even in longer-form content like blog articles). Your users get used to the tone you set and they’ll expect that or can get confused.
You also want to match the tone of your website with your design. I just went through a huge refresh on my main Web Development business website because while I had a good design and great copy, they didn’t match. Now my playful, sarcastic copy fits in better with the design and it works together more seamlessly.
When it comes to copy, it needs to be kept the same not only across the website but throughout a brand’s marketing. That helps to keep their message clear and on-point but also helps to bring people back to your websites because they’ll know what to expect.
Shit, even when posting regular content like blogs, emails, or podcasts (hint hint), it’s best to do so on a consistent, regular basis. Your audiences will learn that a blog or a podcast episode gets dropped at say Wednesdays at 8am and go look for it.
If that schedule is all over the place, they’ll not be sure when to come back and they’ll stop looking for you.
Consistency is the Key to Speeding Up Your Processes
Here’s the thing that I know you’ll care about most – when design elements and content is kept consistent throughout a website, it’s incredibly easy to build. Personally, being hyper-consistent with my own website builds allows me to build a small website in 8 hours, a medium in 10-15, and a large in under 40. It also keeps my stylesheets to just about 200-400 lines of code, and helps my sites to render faster because they’re lean.
I’m able to build a website that quickly because I’m so consistent in the design elements throughout the site so I’m not coding thirty lines of CSS for just one page. Consistent content also makes the design process quicker and easier because you’re dealing with similar copy lengths throughout, too.
Consistency Keeps Customers Happy
The real most important piece of consistency, however, is that it keeps your customers and their customers happy. They’ll breeze through even large websites, find it easier to place orders or book calls, and find the website so easy to use that they’re far more likely to return. When you help your customer have a consistent publishing schedule or have one for your own business, your target audience will find it far easier to connect and follow along.
While it can be fun to “mix it up,” I promise that if you focus on consistency in design and content you’ll find far better results with your marketing and the websites you build then if you didn’t.