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Hope to get references to articles/ideas to guide me in the following question

The facts:

  • I'm designing 2 different products under the same products family / suite.
  • The products are complementary, and may or may not be used by the same user.
  • Some of the flows in both of them are similar but not identical.

The question: I'm trying to use the same paradigms and patterns all over the two products, but is some cases, I'm using different ux patterns so the experience on each one of the product will be "perfect" for the user.

The question is when do I need to "scarify" the usability for the sake of constancy? The design must be consistent no matter what? What are the cases that i can "Ignore" consistency between the two products on order to give better experience?

Thanks

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    Is it possible to see some examples (at least lofi) to understand you better? Generally I would say that consistency is a part of usability and it could be "sacrified" if it provides better experience for the product.
    – fakermaker
    Dec 27, 2023 at 11:05

3 Answers 3

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In my opinion, the approach to take can be summarised as

Design for the user with consistency in mind – when that's not possible, deviate away from consistency and optimise for UX.

because – User centered design comes first. Not consistency.


In the case you mentioned, it seems like the same user would not ever use both the products at the same time. So, it is a good opportunity to optimise for UX over consistency across the two products. It is ok because user familiarity of a flow in one product does not have any positive impact on the other as the same user doesn't use both.

That being said, it is always good to have consistency across your products suite as much as possible for the following benefits:

  1. Design and dev effort optimisation: Obviously, a standardised base would be easier to handle across the org in the long term and you can make sure that your various products do not diverge drastically in the long run. So, consider using as much as similar components, flows and branding as possible. Whenever it is REQUIRED to deviate to optimise for user, deviate!
  2. Brand awareness: Even the same user could be referring the other product to a friend or family after trying it out for them. So there is some long term - hard to quantify - benefits to it.
  3. When there is a third product in the future: Literally. If you have not totally let go off consistency now. It will be much helpful in the future.

The biggest products out there shows us how consistency is kept when possible and diverted when required. Eg: In GSuite, How navigation across weeks in Gcal is different in UI from navigation across pages in Gmail. But overall they both feels like the same product suite.

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I wrote this somewhere else, but I think it applies:

The thing about consistency is that it’s often misused or misinterpreted. While consistency can be a good thing, it can also be a bad one, if not applied correctly.

In the end, consistency in itself is not the goal. Usability is the goal, and while consistency can attribute to that, if consistency is forced just for the sake of being consistent, it can actually hurt your usability.

Consistency often becomes an idefix, which due to the lack of understanding your user interactions, removes the need to grasp the complexity of your solutions. It’s lazy design and makes for a sub par interaction. Consistency is not about making everything look the same. It’s about making sure different things behave in their respectively different but distinct (and predictable!) ways. This ensures users understand what to expect from a certain interaction. Or as Mark Parnell so nicely states:

“One of the more insidious mistruths has been the need to always be consistent with your design work.”

Consistency should empower the user; helping them understand what to expect from the UI. By making everything seem the same, it feels the same and loses its distinct language to convey its functionality to the user.

Being consistent for the sake of being consistent would diminish our users’ ability to discern different elements with different functions and purposes. However, being consistent in your distinctions, empowers your users; they will be able to predict what to expect when interacting with your UI.

Or as Adam Silver says:

“consistency is not about making different things the same. It’s about making the same things the same.”

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I think if you have high consistency overall between the 2 apps then the lower level details and features should also be consistent.

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