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Why This is Important
Consistent UI (User Interface) components are easier to understand and interact with, especially for people with cognitive and visual disabilities.
Components that do the same thing should also visually look the same. If components look different across different pages, it’s confusing and increases the cognitive load on people learning how to interact with the website/app.
Consistency also applies to alt text and labels that are available to screen readers. A screen reader is a type of assistive tech that converts text, buttons, and other screen elements to audio and/or braille. It is primarily used by Blind and visually impaired people. If you are new to screen readers, I recommend watching a video to learn how it works.
This references WCAG criterion 3.2.4 Consistent Identification (Level AA).
How to Implement This
Use a Design System
The best way to make sure the user interface is visually consistent is to use a design system. A design system is a source of truth for visual styles, layout, and components and comes with guidelines for when and how to use them.
This way of thinking is also known as Atomic Design, a concept focused on designing systems instead of individual pages. You start with components at the “atomic” level (e.g. titles, body text, buttons, etc.) and use these components to build larger, more complex components.
Here are some guidelines on how to create a design system:
- Design Systems: Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Your Own
- Starting a design system in a start-up
- Designing your design system
Here are some examples of design systems:
Consistent Screen Reader Text
Make sure that components that do the same thing also have the same screen reader label.
In this example, the login button is labeled differently across 3 different pages:
<button id="logIn">Log In</button>
<button id="signIn">Log In</button>
<button id="userLogIn">Log In</button>
In order to be accessible, they should all be labeled the same.
Websites and applications can get complex pretty quickly with a large amount of text to track. Here are some tools to help manage the copywriting system-wide:
How to Test This
This requires manual testing through an audit of the UI design and screen reader writing.
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