My first thought was that this is about brand.
But it's not just about brand - unless brand includes human computer interaction. Which it doesn't. Or does it!?
I've worked with a client, a big company, who had over the years been on a bit of a spending spree, buying up other companies and products to extend their own portfolio into a complete range of software. Some related, some not. Some user-base overlap, some not.
Then this company had a problem - a suite of products - none of which look the same, feel the same, behave the same.
Of course they have a monumentous task to bring everything into line so that:
- someone looking at their suite of products could identify them as from the same supplier
- someone using one product could immediately be familiar with another
- economies of scale could allow efficiency in continued development, sales, support and maintenance
- silos could be broken down and become collaborative knowledge sharing teams
- data formats could be shared
- cross product communication (import export) could take place
The list could go on...
Somewhere in that list is the bit about brand consistency, but brand isn't just the colour of the box and the font on the back, although that's essentially the first and easiest thing they had to get consistent.
I like my metaphors, so think of your products as the soil and the brand as the plants that grow in the soil. Brand is a deep rooted vein that runs right through the product, deep and broad. Brand grows from day one. The soil is stronger as a result.
But it's almost impossible to take a bunch of products (different soils) and insert the brand afterwards. Superficially you might see the brand on the surface, but it won't take root easily, and it takes a long time to get that network of roots built up.
People use products. A truism. They might use the product all day every day. They invest time and energy in however you built the interface. That interface has a style, a feel, an emotion that the user has to live with. For the users, that is all about the brand, because that's surely how they will think of your business.
This isn't to say that two elements of the interface have to be juxtaposed in the same in each product. Two trees growing in the soil don't have to always be next to each other - that's boring and restrictive - but they do have to be recognisable as the same trees and they do have to be able to grow.
Some users may never use another of your products, but some might. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow... maybe when you're not such a small startup. Maybe when you wish you'd made conversations about and between products easier for your users, your sales team, your designers, your marketing team, your developers, your management, your critics, your followers and your brand.
Because it's not just users who interact with the products. It's every damn person you can think of.