How does a designer develop a product

Consistent design in digital products: these are the advantages

The design and aesthetics of a product are known to be a matter of taste and must be viewed very individually. Is it really necessary to pay attention to the consistency in the design? Let's take a closer look in the following article.

What is meant by consistent product design?

Consistent product design is when the same solution is always used for the same problem. Example button:

  • A button usually has a function: A click on the button triggers an action (submit form, perform calculation, cancel).
  • Under normal circumstances, 2–3 types of buttons are sufficient: primary button, secondary button, etc.
  • Accordingly, for a simple digital product, it is sufficient to design 2-3 types of buttons.

The following is an example of buttons that were not designed for consistency. There are seven types for the Learn more Button, three types for that Sign on Button and other types for other functions on the same website.

When talking about consistency in product design, one differentiates between visual consistency and the functional consistency. Visual consistency means that components with the same target action (submit form, perform calculation, cancel) always look the same. Functional consistency means that the same elements should always react and function in exactly the same way. For example, a Back Buttons on a website always work exactly the same way.

Let's take a closer look at what the consequences of a lack of consistency are.

The design process slows down

And with it the product development - the product will be brought to the market and the end users later as possible. Design and development teams look at problems in isolation and keep inventing specific solutions:

"We should also have a button for subscribing to the newsletter."
"Sure, I'll do it."
"Can you then design a button for the contact form?"
"Yes, I'll design something then."

It would be better if designers paused and asked themselves: “What types of buttons do we need again and again? Let us design them, then we can use them again and again. "

Once these types have been defined and designed, you can always fall back on them. Designers can focus on bigger challenges than button designs, the design process is accelerated and products are developed faster.

Customer satisfaction drops

If a digital product is designed consistently, this leads to better calculability or predictability of the user interface for the user. They know exactly what happens after a button is clicked, because they already know the behavior of the previous buttons that look the same.

However, if the product is designed inconsistently and works a little differently everywhere, users are less efficient in use, lose trust and become increasingly frustrated.

There is a lack of clarity in the product

We know from brand experts how important clarity is for a brand. A brand and its value proposition should be as comprehensible as possible. This enables a company to differentiate itself better, is better perceived and the relationship with the target group is improved - all factors thanks to which a company can better sell its products and services.

Consistent product design fits in exactly with the above factors. How should users be enthusiastic about the brand of your company and your offer if they cannot find their way around the digital product? How can users trust your company if they don't even know what happens when they click the button on the website?

Consistent product design thus supports a trustworthy appearance of your brand in the digital product.

Scaling is more difficult

Admittedly, inconsistent design is not devastating for a monolingual digital product for a small target group.

But put yourself in the shoes of a company like Airbnb: Airbnb is available in 60+ languages ​​and on dozens of mobile devices and browsers. There are also hundreds of screens that need to be designed and developed.
So for Airbnb it is extremely important to keep the design consistent - otherwise the company cannot change its product quickly enough and respond quickly to new user needs.

How do you achieve consistency in digital products?

Inconsistencies arise when problems are viewed in isolation and individual solutions are designed. This does not happen out of bad will, but often out of ignorance: You don't know what challenges other people in the product team are working on.

There are two main measures to make digital products more consistent:

Establishing a component library or a design system

If you manage as a team to no longer look at problems in isolation, but to solve them with a holistic view, these solutions should also be documented. This can be achieved by collecting and documenting all the components that have been created in one place. To get started, it already helps to document these elements:

  • Colors and their purpose and their meaning
  • Fonts and font styles and their intended use
  • Layout grids and spacing: How are elements arranged
  • Defined components such as buttons, navigation elements or content blocks

This component library - also known as the style guide - should be as accessible and well documented as possible. She is supposed to be Single Source of Truth where each team member can get the necessary information himself.

A so-called design system can develop from this basic work over time. The aim of a design system is that all visual and functional elements of a digital product are conceived and designed in the context of the overall system. Normally, not only individual elements such as colors, fonts or buttons are defined in such a system, but also entire information architectures and user journeys across multiple screens.

Improved communication in the product team

The second measure to increase consistency in digital products is regular and transparent communication. Two concrete ideas:

  • Daily standups: If you haven't done them yet, start now. This short daily exchange (often in the morning) helps to coordinate the team, avoid duplication and gain a better understanding of the work of others.
  • Weekly or monthly design reviews: New design concepts or design system elements are presented to the team and feedback is obtained. This keeps the whole team informed of the latest developments. At the same time, the collective intelligence flows into the individual design concepts. As is so often the case, as an individual you cannot cover every conceivable case and are happy to receive advice from teammates.

Conclusion

Consistent design in a digital product and maintaining a component library is not nice-to-have. The most successful digital companies have long relied on systems thinking in product design. As a result, you achieve greater user satisfaction and more efficient development processes.

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