I wrote this for some internal documentation around or data visualization (i.e. Dashboards) standards. I kind of like it.
Here’s something you may use every week, a gas pump. Most people probably don’t think much about how it was put together.
This is a perfect example of something made without much cohesive design. Every gas station is different, every pump manufacturer, every point-of-sale vendors, etc. Each with its own design decisions and logic. We learn to deal with these inconsistencies every time we stop for gas. In the worse case we become frustrated or make mistakes due to the lack of consistency. In the best cases all parts are easy to understand and work consistently.
In the physical world there is a long and complex history in the development of interfaces – multiple owners, physical and technical limitations, regulatory influences, etc.
However, even with those differences, we all know how to navigate this process. We’ve developed knowledge of what parts of the display we can interact with and how certain parts need to be selected first before seeing changes elsewhere.
The same is true in the digital world. People have come to rely on a lot of subtle clues to make their way through an interface: buttons have slight gradients and rounded corners, links have hover states, form fields have a soft inner shadow, and navigation bars “float” over the rest of the content.
These consistent elements are the focus of our user interface (UI) standards – the things we can make consistent should be consistent regardless of creator or audience. We have the unique opportunity, unlike the beleaguered gas station pump designers, to work together to create a shared language and experience when creating content for our co-workers.