3.18 Create a style of presentation that is consistent across pages
WAI Checkpoint 14.3
Full WAI text: "Create a style of presentation that is consistent across pages."
Present content in a constant, uniform way across the entirety of a web site. Content includes information, instructions and error messages presented through text, visual or audio formats.
Text and audio content should have a uniform tone of voice, structure, terminology, etc. Visual content should appear coherent by sharing similar colour schemes, icons, proportions, etc.
Consistency is very important for all users of a website. Inconsistently presented web sites disorient users and lead to mistakes, confusion and frustration.
Consistency makes your site more predictable and helps users to learn how it works, making it easier for them to navigate to the information they want, each time they visit a site. It also helps users to skip unwanted chunks of navigation or content, which makes task completion or information retrieval more efficient.
Ensuring that the following characteristics are more or less uniform throughout a site, or a series of related sites creates consistency:
- Visual presentation - elements look similar from page to page
- Order - elements are presented in a consistent sequence
- Language - terminology is consistent
- Behaviour - links and navigation controls always do the same thing when activated
Users who are not familiar with using computers or the web, users with learning difficulties or users in a hurry will all benefit from consistent navigation mechanisms.
Directions and Techniques
Use style sheet techniques to improve consistency
See WAI recommended techniques on using style sheets to improve consistency
Create and use a style guide
A style guide is a reference for people who add content to the site or who manage sites. It should set out the basic rules and guidelines for writing content, visual presentation and behaviour of controls and interactive features. Note that a style guide is only as good as the person who uses it. If there is no system in place for reviewing content against a style guide, you may as well not have one.
How you could check for this:
Compare different pages in the site
When you open each page, compare the positioning and presentation of the navigation elements. Compare the language and naming system for links and sections. Compare the behaviour of the navigation mechanisms.
If the site is part of a suite of sites, compare the entire suite
If users are likely to use more than one site in the suite, which could be several related sites from an organisation or a theme-based collection of sites, then you should check for consistency across the suite.