Design Consistency and Redesign

October 14, 2009

An important design lesson was reinforced by a visit to my Walmart Neighborhood Market. Walmart has recently changed their packaging design.

As I looked for some items that we frequently buy, I had to look a lot closer because I was not able to use the visual cues that I have come to associate with these items like color and look of the former packaging.

I was reminded how important visual consistency can be. You can really disorient visitors to your Web site if you drastically change the visual interface.

Several of the design experts I follow advocate realign or making small incremental changes rather than drastic redesigns. One of the reasons is the very thing I experienced today–I was a bit disoriented because the visual cues I relied on to find products quickly had changed. The same thing happens to users on your Web site. They get use to page elements being in a certain place. Color can serve as a cue. The consistency creates a mental modal that you break if you make too many drastic changes.

As many designers do, I like the challenge of a redesign. I am more familiar with my design than anyone and I can get bored after a while and want to redesign. But it can do a big disservice to the audience of the site. I like the thinking of Cameron Moll because he challenges designers to have really good reasons for wanting to change the look of a site in a dramatic way. It is much more effective to make small changes over time.

What do you think? Do you like to redesign? How do other site redesigns affect you?

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