Are minor inconsistencies tripping up your customers?
Humans are fragile creatures. We rely on patterns and uniformity to get through the day, and when something disrupts these patterns, things can spiral out of control pretty quickly. Maybe I’m being a tad dramatic, but if you want a nice visual of this effect, just check out this video of people constantly tripping up at the same point on a flight of seemingly ordinary stairs.
What’s going on? Surely all of these people can see where they’re walking?
Probably, but they’re not using their senses in this situation. Their brains are taking the pattern of the first few stairs as the information needed to calibrate exactly how much they need to lift their feet to clear the next step. And because one of those steps is not uniform, it literally trips them up.
It’s the same on websites. Consistency really is key in the design of your site to help your customers achieve their goals, and, in turn, you to achieve your goals. It’s not just about making an online experience easier; designing with consistency in mind also helps to improve familiarity and trust and strengthens your brand.
Here are a couple of simple things you can check to make sure you’re not leaving a trip hazard:
Design using simple, repeatable patterns
If one link is blue and underlined, they all should be. If you use a basket icon in one place, don’t use a trolley icon in another.
Users will unconsciously ascribe a meaning to specific design elements. By making this consistent, repeatable actions will become habitual. It also helps your developers by helping them bed in common reusable classes in order to update multiple elements at once. Win.
Don’t try to reinvent the wheel
I know floppy discs haven’t been around for a while, but we all know what the save icon looks like. Utilising established wording, iconography, imagery, etc. will limit the amount of mental energy a user needs to complete a task.
From your website to your marketing campaigns and real-world offering, customers should be provided with a fully-aligned experience so there’s no doubt that you’ve got their back.
Choose your words carefully
Your users will have limited understanding of your products and services compared to you, so you need to make it abundantly clear what you’re talking about. For this we need consistency of language in terms of what we know about the world, and consistency in how we communicate these offerings across your website.
If you’re naming a product or service, ask yourself whether your grandmother would understand it. If not, it might be too conceptual – it’s always preferable that people know what you’re offering, right?
When labelling menus and links on your website, these need to be completely aligned. For example, it’s probably going to be confusing if you talk about ‘calculators’ in one place, and then start referring to them as ‘tiny maths machines’ (which I shall start referring to them as from now on) elsewhere. Using consistent wording will help your users orient themselves on your website, so they’ll be less likely to get lost & quit.
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