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The Importance of Visual Continuity
Mike de Sousa, Director, AbleStable

A key component of ensuring web and software interfaces create a positive impact is to provide visual continuity in their design. Taking the example of a fictitious company, this article covers the essential principles that web and software designers need to consider.

The Benefits of Good Design

Good visual design will enhance the communication of an idea and further the reputation of a company, product, or service. When users 'discover easily' and 'do quickly' with the help of well executed graphical elements that are placed in a cohesive visual context, their loyalty to a product, service, or company increases. For example, users might discover how to get from A to B easily (navigate), or execute a task quickly with the help of a clear visual interface.

Whatever the task when browsing a website or using software, good visual design is an equal partner to functionality, and helps ensure users achieve their goals more quickly and easily. Visual continuity, the unseen skeletal structure that functionality and content is presented within, acts as a kind of 'visual grammar'. Without the clear context that continuity provides users are more likely to become frustrated as they fail to reach their goals.

Visual Branding

Creating a consistent visual brand for a product, service, or company is a crucial element in ensuring its success. Branding helps establish a relationship between user and website (or software), and provides a visual cue that acts as a shortcut in recognising a product, service, or company.

Branding includes the following text and graphical elements:

Editorial Style
Typeface
Colour
Logos
lconography
Layout

Setting A Good Example

Taking the example of a fictitious company it's clear how visual consistency creates a strong positive first impression.

idodev
:: i do :: free :: icons :: templates :: articles :: dev ::
Keep Things Simple

The way text is written and presented must be consistent across all mediums: from stationary, to website, to application.



Rule 1


Do your best...




Rule 2


Make it better...
 



Editorial Style

Establishing a clear editorial style across all mediums is important. Users will feel more confident about your company if they feel you speak with one consistent voice.

Typeface

Maintaining a house style helps create a solid foundation for content to be presented in. The choice of font, weight, and text style should be maintained in print publications, websites, and software applications.

Colour

Colour continuity sends a signal to users that you are disciplined about detail. Your colour choice sends a clear message about the kind of company you are. Limiting your brand colours will reduce visual confusion and help put the user at ease.

Logo Development

Spending time on developing an appropriate logo is well worth the effort. If you do not have a flair for design then it's advisable you
employ the services of a professional designer who specialises in the creation of logos. As a general rule logos should be simple, unique, and easily identifiable.

A few examples of how a logo for idodev could be developed follow. Note how the text, colour, and meaning conveys the company's message, and how no image files are used to create the logo:

idodev.com
:: a logo and web address combined ::

< idodev >
:: graphical elements can make logos memorable ::

IDODEV
:: a short tag line could clarify your purpose ::

lconography

Good iconography can significantly increase the usability of websites and software. It is important that icons are easily memorable, well optimised, and delivered consistently.

< idodev >
:: i do :: free :: icons :: templates :: articles :: dev ::
@

?
Keep Things Simple

The effective use of icons not only speed users to their goals, but are a pleasure to the eye.


Layout

Consistent layouts across a website or application reassures the user and assists in their understanding of the content. The various content elements that follow fall under this category:

Introductions
Headings
Text devices (drop capitals etc)
Pull quotes
Boxes
Headers
Footers
Captions
Tabulation
Image positioning

Conclusion

Delivering visual consistency in websites and software applications improves usability and functionality. It's no use to anyone if you have a great option that's next to impossible to find. Users want your website and software to be the answer to their needs. It's up to developers to ensure their site and software is a joy to use...


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Authors background
Mike de Sousa is the Director of AbleStable®. Mike has been commissioned as an artist, music composer, photographer, print and web site designer, and author. Mike also runs www.usereview.com as a brand of AbleStable which provides a review service for software developers.

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