Learning Portfolio 2, part1: Consistency
In my last explanatory post, I gave a summary of aesthetic theory when used in product introduction and presentation. This post delves a bit deeper into what makes a product work on a basic level, beyond that of simply being attractive.
According to Lidwell, Holden and Butler (2003) in their article Aesthetic-Usability Effect, there are four main supports to simple aesthetics. The first is essentially aesthetic consistency as discussed previously, which means that people see a logo, or brand name, and have a feeling regarding it; be it good or bad. Functional consistency refers to providing a familiar set of cues in order to lead people to a desired conclusion; whether or not they had ever seen the item before or not. Internal and External consistency are two halves of the same coin. Internal consistency is when you have a basic order to follow in a product. External consistency allows that basic order to go beyond just the one item to others of similar types. These last two act as something of a safety harness, allowing a consumer to feel relatively safe and excited about something new.
When combined these factors come together to create something that, over time becomes familiar and thereby becomes not only comfortable, but an expectation of what to expect from everyday items (Hekkert, 2006, p.160). Basically, creating a product that is relatively the same as other types of the same product make it easier to use (Silver, 2005, p. 40). According to Jared Spool, a consistency expert, “Why do we gravitate to consistency? Because it’s easier to think about.” The less fuss there is in learning to use a new, but needed, item, the more successful your product is going to be. The buyer doesn’t have to learn a new set of cues and rules. The company has already taken that out of the equation by using what is already common knowledge or more exactly, a commonly used set of expectations for that type of product. Generally speaking, when you buy something new, or go somewhere new, you already have an idea of how a mobile phone should work, or where to look for directions in an unfamiliar train station (Nielsen, 1989, p 2). They follow a previously established pattern set that we follow almost unconsciously.
Consistency is wonderful for getting a new item accepted into an established market, however there can be some downfalls when introducing something new with that product. While consistency provides the familiar and thus a confidence in the buyer that they can use it, they won’t be expecting a new set of rules (Nielsen, 1989, p. 5). Complacency has set up shop. They’re used to these products, are used to that previously mentioned safety harness, and go striding right into a quagmire of trouble when they encounter something new and not comfortable at all. It tends to upset people, and cause them to drop products quickly. Keep the product consistent, and familiar, but also keep in mind keeping it too consistent can cause problems as well. Consistency with a dab of new every now in then works well.
Reference list: Consistency
Hekker, P. (2003). Design aesthetics: Principles of pleasure in design. Psychology Science, 48(2), 157-172. http://www1.coe.neu.edu/~yilin/IE7315_2010/Paper%20Review%20Schedule/Design%20aesthetics%20principles%20of%20pleasure%20in%20design.pdf
Lidwell, W., Holden, K., & Butler, J. (2003). Aesthetics-Usability Effect. In Universal Principles of Design (pp. 46) Massachusetts: Rockport.
Nielsen, J. (Eds.). (1989). Coordinating user interfaces for consistency. San Francisco, California: Academic Press.
Silver, M. (2005). Exploring interface design. Clifton Park, New York. Delmar Cengage Learning
Spool, J. (2005, December 15). Consistency in design is the wrong approach. [Web log post] http://www.uie.com/brainsparks/2005/09/15/consistency-in-design-is-the-wrong-approach/