More on look and feel

It is fairly obvious to whomever I talk to that corporation Web sites should have consistent look and feel, but the problem is the definition of what “consistent” means. For some, it is a fixed C-clamp (top banner, left-hand navigation bar, footer) throughout the site. For others, it is a constant brand within each part of the site, giving the site as a whole a series of different looks. For example, the Products area could have a different look then the Investor area, or the Recruitment area. The theory is that people visit only the part that is relevant to them. The problem is that this argument fails to take into consideration search, among other factors. When a user searches the site (and that’s a large amount of people), they will inevitably land in areas that weren’t designed for them, and if the look and feel is different, they will get confused. Bottom line, the safest way to ensure that your site is as usable as possible is to have a truly consistent interface and navigation on all your pages. There are many ways to have specific identities associated with different areas.