Consistency

by Joe Gillespie — Jun 1, 1999

Having created a strong personality for a Web site, it has to be applied consistently. Telling the same story over and over again in the same way strengthens the message. Any deviation or inconsistency is like removing the can of beans at the bottom of the display pyramid and has the effect of destabilising the whole structure.

Consistency of personality also has the effect of creating predictability and trust. After watching the Simpsons for years, you know how Homer is going to react to a given situation and because you are 'in-tune' with it, it is comfortable and even funnier.

You will have a pretty good idea of what the front page of the next issue of your favourite newspaper or magazine is going to look like. Okay, the contents will be different, but you will still recognise it instantly on the news-stand. Its personality, or 'image' is consistent and will shine through in exactly the same way as it does with people that you like or the car that you drive.

There is, however, quite a fine line between 'gloss' (as in glossy magazine or slick advertisements) and in 'glazing over' (as in hiding the truth).

In both instances, the gloss is superficial. It is the facade that may or may not have substance behind it. The difference in the two is 'personality'. The glossy magazine also has an established image to add credibility but the 'glazed-over' Web site soon gives the thrill of disappointment because it lacks credibility AND fails to deliver.

For the designer, especially the novice, it is difficult to identify any undertones in a design or Web page. Being so close to the creation often colours the perception. Remember, it takes two to communicate (at least) and you need feedback from others to make sure that the same message is being received as is being sent out. Then, that feedback has to be introduced into the design cycle. Sure, you can ignore it, but at least you should consider it and reject it for good reasons.

Ego is probably the designer's worst enemy.

In the third, and final part next month, I will contradict everything I have said so far. In knowing the rules, you are in a position to break them! This is about how to stand out in a crowd.

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