The world is unrepentantly mobile. A few years ago, us netizens practiced the dual screen behaviour, where we used the TV/laptop and mobile at the same time. Today, it has transcended dual and you will often find yourself running multiple devices concurrently to catch up. As I write this piece, I am working on a laptop, researching with my iPad and monitoring social media accounts on my mobile phone. Many get even more screen-crazy than this.
According to a study by DigitasLBi, consumers are now using an average of 5 devices to complete the purchase process as opposed to 2.8 devices back in 2014.
So why am I discussing multiple screen behaviour when my headline says uniformity? Researchers have shown that some people choose to conduct their product research on the laptop and buy on mobile, and vice versa, depending on when the buying impulse kicks in and their shopping preferences. This omni-channel behaviour emphasises the need for website uniformity across multiple devices. Sites need to ‘feel’ the same from wherever the consumer is viewing.
Imagine you have been researching the latest 10-mega pixel Polaroid Snap Camera on a website and you love it. But for some reason — perhaps good old procrastination — you keep putting the purchase off for later. One day you are out in the park and you decide today is the day. So, you whip out your phone and open the site but alas! The mobile site is nothing like the desktop site and it is impossible to locate the specific camera. When you find the product page the images of the camera render differently, and you can only scroll through a couple of images instead of the 10 on desktop. Your mobile visit is underwhelming. Your motivation to buy has expired by the time you get to the cart.
Website uniformity and the brand experience
Many businesses are losing potential sales every day. If your website is not uniform across various channels, you could be diminishing the overall brand experience for your customers. Every interaction they have at a brand touch point, from your employees to a service centre, website or mobile site is an opportunity to deliver excellence. However, if the experience falls short, they will leave with a poor impression of your brand.
“It is up to every designer to ensure they create the same quality user experience on desktop as well as mobile or other devices,” says Brendan Wilde, Marketing Manager at Discount Domain Names.
Uniformity is key to growing engagement and increasing the chances of conversion. Whether you run an ecommerce site or a simple food blog, being consistent can be the difference.
Maintaining a uniform design across web platforms
There is huge value in uniformity of digital interfaces. Most designers fail to consider features like navigation menus, page headers, CTA buttons, content copy, and the list goes on. By designing with a uniform orientation, you will create successful interfaces that drive user behaviours.
Web layouts encourage trust and users learn to follow repeatable patterns that help them navigate the site quicker.
Here are some techniques to adopt:
Design for user expectations
One of the first things you probably learned in design was to put yourself in the user’s position. What do they expect to see or do when they land on your site for the first time? Most users are conditioned to expect a website to work in a specific way. This includes scrolling vertically, having functional links, and having an efficient navigation system right from the first loaded page.
The direction you take for your design is up to you. But when designing for uniformity, ensure you maintain a lucid, consistent design across the whole web layout.
What is the brand USP? What are the most important steps for users to take? What do users need to know to buy? How can I simplify the user experience but keep the feel the same?
Ask yourself these questions and consider which elements from CTA, copy style, font size, etc. should be consistent across devices. Thinking along these lines will get you in the uniformity mindset. Uniformity doesn’t mean keeping everything the same. It means keeping the essence the same and providing a user experience that feels the same.
Navigation by intuition
Users should be able to understand your website immediately. The header and navigation should make the journey to their desired destination on your site easy and readily available.
But it is not just enough to have a smart web design. Does the copy sell the pages as it should? Are visitors convinced by the content on what action to take? Navigation text can be redesigned in several ways including writing language, font size and interface properties like ultra-narrow or vertically oriented slide-out menus for responsive navigation. The key to maintaining uniformity is by keeping the links active easy to navigate. For bigger navigation menus, you might have to insert links or sub-menus in a bigger list.
Repeat layout styles
This technique is used to foster uniformity and it is also applicable on sites with singular or multiple landing pages. The objective is to re-use identical elements for the entire page, but with various graphics and content. When you repeat certain designs, you create a theme for the site and make the visitors comfortable. Uniformity breeds familiarity and that is the whole idea of the design.
Some websites feature a screenshot of the app placed beside the content of the main site. This style is attractive and is one of the more efficient ways to build a uniform design. Although this style is mainly found on the homepage of most sites, it can be repeated on other pages and devices. However, it is important to avoid getting lost in repeated page elements. Rather, consider how the interface could be made more user-friendly.
Keep branding uniform
When people use a brand, they approach it with the promise of an expectation. The idea of branding is to always maintain that promise. If people always experience a smooth navigation on your desktop site, they will expect the same performance on the mobile platform. A problem occurs when the consistency fails.
Consider using the same page colours, typefaces, textures, elements and padding already associated with the brand. While there is no specific right or wrong way to brand a website, some techniques work better for some sites than others. For example, the Google colours are recognisable on its various networks.
As you work on the uniformity of your design across different platforms, it will be evident how valuable this feature is in building a relationship with your loyal customers.