Design consistency

6 Jul 2011 - 1:39am
2 years ago
9 replies
2421 reads
SAI.RAO
2011

Hi all, I am working for designing of UIs for applications across wide range of Mobile devices and all major platforms - iOS, Blackberry, Android, Microsoft. In most cases, there is a need to deliver an application Interface design across all devices and platforms, in such scenario - can anybody suggest how to maintain the consistency of interaction, visual design and interface usability across all devices and platforms?

Comments

6 Jul 2011 - 2:09am
Yohan Creemers
2008

In my opinion the interface should first be consistent with the operating system of the platform and only secondairy be consistent across platforms. Most users will only use one platform, so - from a user prespective - there is no need to have consistent interfaces across platforms.

To reach consistence between versions of your applications, you will need to have a solid product filosophy, describing target group, how it benefits this target group and the product quality in terms of user experience values. Find the optimal product archetype or interaction design framework and use this is the foundation for designing platform specific interfaces.

For the perceived consistency the product filosophy is more important than the size, position or color of buttons.

Yohan
Ylab, designers for interaction
www.ylab.nl

6 Jul 2011 - 2:16am
Samir
2011

I agree that consistency with the platform itself is more important than if the android and iphone versions look exactly the same. However, it's important to keep the experience consistent as well, so that the user can do the same things from all platforms. 

I don't know the requirements of your application, but in some cases it might be more efficient to build a webapp and maintain that one instead of several different platforms.

/ Samir

6 Jul 2011 - 2:55am
ruudt
2008

I agree with Yohan... Though i do think there is a more room for custom GUI-elements if you're making a web-app. 

6 Jul 2011 - 6:06am
AlokJain
2006

Sai,

I recently did such an application and you'll see there are enough similarities between different operating systems that there is a good scope for re-use, but do not aim for 100% consistency as that'll be detrimental to the experience as the users expect the apps on a particular OS to work consistently with other apps.

AJ

6 Jul 2011 - 7:06am
Chauncey Wilson
2007

Hi,

I wrote a short blog on the issues around consistency, a very complex topic since there are many levels (the ones you mention are major ones, but there are additional levels as well).
http://dux.typepad.com/dux/2009/03/the-consistency-conundrum.html

There is only 1 book that covers consistency in depth, an old one that was edited by Jakob Nielsen on the topic, but it might be helpful - Search on Amazon for "Coordinating User Interfaces for Consistency". In the realm of "consistency", this is probably the classic reference.

I also wrote a short blog article on the "Consistency Inspection" method which is a general approach for examining consistency.
http://dux.typepad.com/dux/2011/05/method-13-of-100-consistency-inspecti...

Chauncey

6 Jul 2011 - 7:36am
Jared M. Spool
2003

"Consistency" is the wrong word. We should strike it from our active vocabulary.

"Expectations" is the right word. We should be designing to meet users expectations.

When they expect things to work like other things, we accidentally achieve consistency. When they don't have that expectation, consistency works against us, since it forces the users down a path they don't want or need.

I wrote about this years ago in a piece called "Consistency In Design Is The Wrong Approach." (http://www.uie.com/brainsparks/2005/09/15/consistency-in-design-is-the-wrong-approach/)

Jared

6 Jul 2011 - 9:06am
Chauncey Wilson
2007

Jared makes a great point - one type of consistency is "consistency with user expectations". The classic article on that is: Grudin, J. (1989). The case against user interface consistency. Communications of the ACM, 32, 10, 1164-1173. You can find the article online at:
http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/redmond/groups/coet/Grudin/papers...

As Jared notes, Grudin highlights when being inconsistent in some way (the type of controls for example) is consistent with user expectations (or tasks or context). For example, you wouldn't want to consistently use a wizard user interface (step by step by step) for both a product some people use a few times a year while others use it 50 times a day (where a command line might be appropriate).

Don't let the age of this paper or the older examples reduce the power of Grudin's argument. Also note that consistency has a business side too - doing something 10 different ways (even if they all fit user expectations) can result in quality issues.

Chauncey

6 Jul 2011 - 11:05am
Al McFarland
2008

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Jared,

 

I couldn't agree with you more with your position that leveraging end users' prior knowledge (you call it "current" knowledge) for ease of learning and usage is the way to go.  However, I think you could have added some discussion about the importance of providing affordances and representations of user-system interaction syntax that match prior knowledge, and what to do when there isn't any prior knowledge learnings to leverage.  There isn't anything wrong with using the term "consistency", provided its use is targeting some context that either matches or easily transfers to prior knowledge of the end user population.  The term "consistency" belongs to the lexicon of the system model; the term "expectation" belongs to the lexicon of the user model.  It is important that those involved with creating the experience environment use a consistent terminology; the term "consistency" is an appropriate (and well understood).  

 

When a new user-system interaction language is created (think "touch" on smartphones and tablets), the closer the language semantics and syntax afford to end user prior knowledge, and the more consistent the language rules, the easier the language is to learn and remember.  For example, the main reason that the English language is so difficult to learn is that there are too many exceptions (inconsistencies) to the language rules; even when the user has learned the basic rules of English, rule exceptions pop up all over the place.  The same phenomenon appears with the touch UI language when, for example, one interaction gesture (single finger swipe for scrolling) is modified to perform a different action with different consequences (four-five finger chording horizontal swipe to navigate between open apps).  The inconsistency in result violates the user's prior knowledge or expectation, making it a more difficult interaction to remember and less desirable to use.  The more consistency we maintain in the interaction rules, the easier it is to learn, remember, and use.

 

Perhaps there is room for the term "consistency"; maybe we should speak to "consistency in context" when designing, and "user expectation" and "expectation violation" when taking the user's perspective of the UI experience.

From: "Jared M. Spool" <jspool@uie.com>
To: "5752 nj" <5752.nj@comcast.net>
Sent: Wednesday, July 6, 2011 9:22:44 AM
Subject: Re: [IxDA] Design consistency

"Consistency" is the wrong word. We should strike it from our active  
vocabulary.

"Expectations" is the right word. We should be designing to meet users  
expectations.

When they expect things to work like other things, we accidentally achieve  
consistency. When they don't have that expectation, consistency works against  
us, since it forces the users down a path they don't want or need.

I wrote about this years ago in a piece called "Consistency In Design Is The  
Wrong Approach."  
(http://www.uie.com/brainsparks/2005/09/15/consistency-in-design-is-the-wrong-approach/  
[1])

Jared


6 Jul 2011 - 8:32am
Eloy Muñoz
2010

Very interesting information here about the topic. I have to agree with Yohan that it is more important to think on the platform first when it comes to the design. Being “consistent” with the platform or as Jared clarified, meet the user’s “expectations” for that platform is the most important thing. Then having some consistent design, colors, font faces, elements, etc. between platforms will need to be taken into consideration on a second level.

I believe, the book from Jakob Nielsen -even though is always a great reference- is a bit outdated for this specific topic. I really enjoyed your two articles, Chauncey, great information there.

The main issue here is that your client will ask you for that “consistency”, but it is important to clarify with your client from the beginning that different platforms are that, different, and usability standards are also different in all of them. Is like designing a web application for different browsers and OS, there will always be differences and clients don’t necessarily know that the end product will not look in all the browsers exactly like the version you did on Illustrator. Managing the clients expectations is very important from the beginning on this kind of projects.

Good luck with the project,
Eloy.

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