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Is Cross Device Design Consistency Overrated?

Is it always worth making the perfect website on all devices?

5Feb

The challenge for many companies today is the maintenance of brand across multiple uses, from print advertising to video, the impetus has always been on maintaining their corporate identity.

From a distinctive colour used through every design to a particular character used in every advert, this consistency is something that companies look to emulate everywhere that their brand appears.

In websites however, this can often go one step further.

Today websites are not only expected to stay brand consistent, but also to stay consistent to one another when they are across different devices.

This means that buttons should be in the same place, pictures should be the same and the length of text and titles needs to remain consistent.

In theory this makes sense. If you are switching from viewing a website on a desktop computer to a mobile device, the screen size and the content needs to be the same. This is a no brainer, but does everything else need to be the same?

Often designs are compromised through this, not only on a mobile or tablet screen, but on desktop site too.

If we concentrate on the most basic aspect of any web page alone, it shows where problems could occur; the title.

Titles essentially need to give a brief explanation of what the page or post is about, something that is easily done with the space available on a desktop. With the additional space it is possible to be far more descriptive and therefore give a better title. It is always going to the case that short snappy titles work best, but by limiting what you can add purely to fit the design on a mobile device, is going to effect what you can write on the desktop version.

Similar problems can occur with images.

Having a colourful and beautiful picture on a desktop is a fantastic way to attract customers, but the same picture on a smaller screen can become too dominant and make it look messy and difficult to read. Therefore pictures are chosen that adhere to every screen size, which compromises the pictures that can look amazing on larger screens, to make sure that they also work with smaller screens.

Many companies have found ways to overcome this, but many are simply resizing using responsive designs, but the problem that many are finding is that if they are looking to adapt their sites to multiple different sizes, the scaling of images and basic design elements effects the user experience.

The truth is that many of these aspects come from time constraints and a universal CMS systems.

Having to find different pictures, text and design of multiple sizes will take considerably longer than just doing it once and adapting the same aspects to different sizes. Therefore, it essentially boils down to firstly how much money can be afforded to pump into each aspect and secondly which design has the most viewers.

It may then be better for a company to concentrate on a certain size if their audience dictates it.

A prime example of this is Instagram.

The vast majority of their audience access their content through mobile, so making a design that is adaptable across mobile, tablet and desktop would adversely effect the design of their primary source of traffic. If you look at the desktop version of the site, it looks bland, but still displays the same content. If they were to make this directly compatible to their mobile site, it would harm them in the long run.

So if you have one format where the vast majority of your users access your site, then spend most of the time designing for that. If it is split relatively equally across multiple formats, then you are best making the best possible outcome across all. Unless you want to upload the same content multiple times to fit every size exclusively. 

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