October 3, 2013
Designing versions of a product for web, mobile web, iOS, and Android isn’t something you should normally do at the same time. But, right now I’m doing just that for Hometalk and it was making me lose my mind. iOS7’s launch was the breaking point and forced me rethink how to approach it all.
Designing well is enough of a challenge. Figuring out how to best approach consistency across all these environments was the problem.
The solution I came up with: screw consistency. Seriously!
OK, there are some that should stay fairly consistent: logo, colors, the idea of what the product is. But, that’s about it.
Different platforms have their own conventions for what a good experience is and fighting endlessly for the same look and interactions everywhere will wind up hurting more than helping. If you take a look around at some of the bigger players (Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), you’ll see many differences between the styles of their different platforms. They’re related, and you know they’re the same product, but they’re tailored to be the best they can be on their respective platform. My favorite is Foursquare.
Instead of forcing one style across everything, this approach of flexibility gives you a family of visual languages. Each one is independent, but tied up to the parent, which can be the website, or just the idea of the brand in the heads of the product team.
If you find yourself, or your team in this situation, don’t be afraid to be a little inconsistent with all the traditional representations of a brand. Let your brand live its own life on different platforms. Your users have chosen that platform and it’s smart to be a respectful participant while you’re there. The reward is better experiences for users and maybe more sanity among your team.