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HCI: How do You Strive for Consistency?

The eight golden rules of interface design by Ben Shneiderman are considered to be bases for user centric design. Among these eight rules striving for consistency is an important one. The rule helps mapping human psychology with software interfaces. Our brain tends to make patterns out of everything it interacts with and by following this rule, our brain will find it easier to use the system. And that is the whole purpose of user centric design – make the software usable for humans.

What is consistency in an interface?

This basically means that the interface must follow a pattern throughout. The dialog boxes in case of software or mobile app, and color of links and buttons in case of website should be same. It seems to be an obvious thing that every UI designer would follow; after all who would have two different colors of links for same web page or software screen. But the rule actually applies to more general things than what are obvious. For example, consider a mobile app for both android and IOS. If the mobile app follows this rule, then it must be consistent with the interface for its respective operating systems. The design and placement of buttons and other elements should be compatible with the native android system and also for IOS. If on a confirmation dialog box for a particular OS, OK button appears to the left and cancel button appears on right than the app should behave the same. 

Don’t make the user think

The user brain would make assumptions about the behavior of the interface by following the pattern that it has made by either using the same software interface or by using the operating system interface that the software is running on. Our purpose is to make it easier for the user’s brain to assume functionality and our software should behave in accordance with those assumptions. We want to minimize the time user needs to perform an action. Our goal should be to make the user spend more of his time achieving his task without thinking on the steps required to achieve it.

How do we achieve consistency?

We must follow the same pattern for interfaces that other system on our target platforms are following. The interface should be shown to some of the potential users for demonstration purposes and we should observe how comfortable they feel using it as our goal is to make it easier to use for them.

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