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Thursday, 07 July 2011

Thoughts on Consistency

Interesting discussion on IxDA regarding consistency in user interfaces. My response to demands or inquires for consistency is that appropriate trumps consistent. Then I continue on to explain why the screens or controls being compared are not being handled in the same manner. It always comes down to what is appropriate in each specific context for the types of people using the application. This is the approach Jared Spool talks about in his article Consistency in Design is the Wrong Approach.

If you are asked to make software consistent, treat it like every other request and ask why. Continue asking why until you get at the real problem behind the request. If the request is just a vague, overarching cry for consistency then review the software to make sure you're being consistent with what is appropriate for the context and the users. And be prepared to explain your reasoning around any specific areas that appear on the surface to be inconsistent.

Chauncey Wilson details the various types and flavors of consistency and also describes a method for conducting a consistency inspection. Both articles are very helpful when reviewing your software applications for consistency.

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