Consistency Sin

Craig Hockenberry:

The roots of consistency sin take hold when folks disregard the inherent differences between platforms. A greater importance is placed on making sure things match visually: how a person uses that design takes a back seat.

Hockenberry focuses on platform differences, but I’ve noticed consistency being used as a weapon for bad design in many other contexts. Consistency is a simple idea that is easy to understand, and it’s tempting to apply it everywhere, even when it should not be applied.

What people forget is that the idea of consistency, that like things should look and behave alike, has a corollary: unlike things must not look and behave alike. Consistency doesn’t just mean «make everything the same», it also means «make different things different.»

Making things consistent that shouldn’t be consistent will hurt usability, not improve it.

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