14 Tips for Using Design to Create Cohesive Software
Graphic designers are responsible for bringing visual concepts to life that communicate specific messages and ideas to consumers.
When asked about what graphic designers create, most people think of infographics, brochures, logos, posters, cards, stickers, billboards, and website visuals.
However, graphic designers can play an integral role in creating consistent and cohesive software.
Here are 14 ways graphic designers can use their design skills to build consistent and cohesive software that is easy to use.
1 – Project Outline
As a graphic designer, one of your responsibilities might be to meet with clients to define the scope of a project. A software project is no different.
Emphasising to clients the importance of consistency and cohesiveness to brand loyalty is an excellent first step for establishing expectations with the client and showcasing your approach to design work.
When consumers know they can expect a quality experience, they’re more likely to choose your software over your competitors, so getting all stakeholders on the same page regarding software design and cohesiveness can be essential for project success.
Discuss how you can use your design skills to create user interface design elements that encourage an easy-to-use software experience.
For example, navigation features, content layout, and buttons, and why these elements aren’t just helpful but are foundational and essential for UX.
Furthermore, explore creating software design documents. These documents ensure that everyone who works on the software knows the branding and design standards at the forefront of the design to maintain consistency and cohesiveness.
Your software design documents should include:
- A project timeline
- The user interface vision
- Who is going to be involved in completing the project
- More minor features and individual user stories ranked by priority
- A detailed description of how the software is supposed to function
- Current solutions out there for the problem your software aims to solve
- An overarching goal and checkpoints to note while working toward that goal
Graphic designers can also help ensure the software’s foundation is a simple, clean design.
2 – A Simple, Clean Design
Users are more likely to enjoy the software with a simple, clean design than cluttered and ridden with cutesy design elements.
You can use your design skills to ensure the software is easy on the eyes no matter what page a user interacts with.
A simple, clean design means ensuring:
- Each element is spaced properly
- White space is used appropriately
- Readable fonts are used throughout
- The colour schemes used are intentional
- Pages aren’t cluttered
Next, you can use your design skills to prioritise functionality.
3 – Prioritise Functionality
A considerable part of creating software that’s consistent and cohesive is ensuring it’s functional. Users must be able to manage your software with ease.
Navigating it shouldn’t take too much energy. Software components should be effortless visually and in the way they function.
For instance, let’s say you have a blue button on your software’s main page that takes users to a page where they can set up a free consultation with your team to walk through how to use your software effectively.
If that button is on any other page, it should do the same thing.
Creating a blue button on each page that does something different on each page will only confuse users.
Instead, you can help keep buttons and other software elements that aid functionality consistent through proper design.
Next, consistent and cohesive software fosters easy navigation.
You can create a consistent and cohesive software experience through easy navigation. You can help design intuitive software navigation that also looks good.
Structure the navigation in a way that users expect. For example, a horizontal navigation bar at the top of each page with dropdown menu capabilities gives users additional options.
Keep your navigation bar simple with only relevant categories. Too many options in the navigation may overwhelm users and cause them to cease interacting with the software altogether.
You can also help ensure the software has appropriate content placement with your graphic design skillset.
5 – Appropriate Content Placement
How and where you place content in software is incredibly important. Users aren’t likely to enjoy or absorb content that’s shoved in page corners or oddly spaced between irrelevant graphics.
Instead, create a cohesive content experience that guides users into the action you want them to take.
Appropriate content placement means considering:
- How users read (i.e., top to bottom, left to right)
- The importance of spacing
- Using headings, small paragraphs, and bullet-point lists
- What visuals you’re using to compliment the written content
- How disruptive visuals can be when used inappropriately
In addition to content placement, you can ensure your call-to-action, or CTAs, used throughout the software are recognisable.
6 – Design Recognisable CTAs
CTAs aren’t just for blog posts or emails. It would help if you also encouraged users to take specific actions in software programs.
If you don’t tell your users what you want them to do, they probably won’t take the action you want them to.
For instance, if a user opens the software and it’s just a blank canvas with no direction, they’ll likely leave because they have no idea where to start.
On the other hand, if they open the software and in the middle of the blank canvas, there’s a red button that says, “Start Here,” they’ll likely click it and begin their journey with the software.
Graphic designers can use their skills to ensure each CTA used in the software is defined by its function and visual elements, like the colour and font.
Furthermore, you can implement animation when designing your CTAs and other elements in the software.
7 – Implement Proper Use of Animation
Animation is the art of making inanimate objects appear to move. Of course, it’s challenging to make an immovable object appear to move, but successful graphic designers are masters at it.
Animation is often used throughout software to make the program more entertaining. It also helps specific elements stand out to users.
For example, using the pulse effect on buttons when users scroll closer to them. Or using a flash effect on ad banners to draw users’ attention to them.
Even using animation effects on the content, allowing it to glide across the screen or swoop in from the bottom of a page.
Another way to use design to create consistent and cohesive software is to leverage colour psychology.
8 – Leverage Colour Psychology
There are various psychology principles to pick from to improve your design. Colour psychology, in particular, can help ensure the software you’re working on remains consistent and cohesive.
Colour psychology is the study of how colour influences human behaviour.
Graphic designers intentionally use colour to evoke specific emotions from those who engage with their designs.
You can leverage colour psychology in software design by using specific colour schemes to influence a user’s mood, physiological reactions, and ultimately, their following action.
For example, using different hues of blue can evoke calmness and serenity from a user. Additionally, you can help ensure the software is using brand colours successfully throughout to maintain brand consistency.
Easy navigation, appropriate content placement, recognisable CTAs, proper animation, and colour psychology contribute to a harmonious page design.
9 – Harmonious Page Design
Any software usually includes more than one page. So, whenever a user clicks on a button or specific feature in the software you’re working on, it should lead them to a page that they can recognise.
Instead of throwing users off with pages that don’t look like they’re a part of the same program, make sure all of them have the same design, structure, and layout.
This way, users can find comfort in knowing each page connects with the others in some way.
As a graphic designer, you can also use your skillset to ensure the software meets accessibility requirements.
10 – Meet Accessibility Requirements
Excellent graphic designers are adept in accessibility requirements.
Some of the main accessibility requirements to be aware of are:
- Include alt-text on images
- Use a skip navigation feature
- Use in-sync captioning on videos
- Enable keyboard navigation
- Create transcripts for audio content
- Enable voice and image search
- Refrain from excessive use of animation
- Appropriate use of colour
- Compatibility with assistive devices
You can ensure the software you’re designing meets accessibility requirements and caters to individuals living with a disability.
Unfortunately, many designers neglect this pool of users. So, by prioritising their needs in your software, you can easily stand out from your competition.
Also, the ability to reference accessibility requirements when designing ensures consistency and cohesiveness in the resulting product.
Consistent visual branding elements also contribute to a united software experience.
11 – Consistent Visual Branding Elements
One of the main ways to create a consistent and cohesive experience with a piece of software is to use the same visual branding elements used everywhere else.
Examples of visual branding elements are:
- The logo used on the website, social media pages, and other brand platforms
- The typography used in all written materials
- The sizing templates for images, videos, and visual content on other brand materials
- Icons used for specific features and functions
- Original illustrations that you can attribute to only your particular brand
Be sure to use these branding elements and others to help users recognise the brand and business in the software.
A consistent, cohesive software is also optimised for mobile devices.
12 – Mobile Optimisation
If your software is only functional on a desktop computer, it won’t last in the market. This is because people are now using their mobile devices more than anything to browse the internet, play games, make purchases, launch software programs, and so forth.
As a graphic designer, you can use your skills to ensure the software functions and looks good on any mobile device, including smartphones, tablets, laptop computers, smartwatches, and handheld gaming consoles.
A massive part of creating consistency and cohesiveness in software is ensuring users get the same quality experience no matter the device they’re using.
Additionally, prioritising design can help you make improvements to the software with ease.
13 – Make Improvements More Seamlessly
It would be a dream to create a piece of software and not ever have to make any adjustments.
It would just remain perfectly functional and aesthetically pleasing for its lifetime. But this isn’t reality.
Users’ needs change, bugs arise you must fix that, and improvements are suggested by users and internal teams that will improve the product. You must address all of these things if the software is to grow with its audience.
You can use your design skills to ensure the visual elements and design stay intact when it’s time to fix a bug, make an improvement to the program, or take part away that’s hindering the software’s functionality.
Lastly, you must be a part of the reflection process once the software project is complete.
14 – Thorough Project Reflection
You’ll be able to gauge whether the software is consistent and cohesive a lot more once it’s complete and users begin to interact and engage with it.
Your participation in the project reflection conversation is essential because you were an integral part of the design and development process.
You can talk more thoroughly about how you think the design process went and if you met the consistency and cohesiveness standards set at the start of the project.
Reflect on the project to determine if it was successful by answering the following questions:
- Were all design objectives met?
- Was the project completed on time?
- Was the project completed within budget?
- Which features were users most excited about?
- Which functions were engaged with the least?
- Were users satisfied with the software’s design?
- Did the team adhere to design guides and requirements?
- Did the software generate profit? If so, how much can be attributed to the design?
Ultimately, tracking a software project’s performance, how users engage with it, and discussing the results with your team is essential to creating and maintaining consistent, cohesive software.
Your design skills can be instrumental in creating a software design that is easy to use, visually appealing, consistent, and cohesive.
By using the tips above, you’ll be well on your way to building brand loyalty through an exceptionally designed software experience.