[map]A Page Structure Pattern from
Patterns for Personal Web Sites

Consistent Format

One problem inherent to the Web is that it's often hard to tell where one is. Did that link take you to another page on the same site, albeit with a completely different design, or are you on another site? The only sure way to tell is by comparing URLs. The rule of thumb is: pages with the same format (layout, images, etc) are on the same site; pages with similar formats might be; pages with different formats probably aren't. Having a consistent format is a key element that identifies pages as being part of your site.

Therefore, maintain a consistent format across all of your site's pages.

Giving your site's pages a consistent format has two major benefits:

  • It gives your site an instantly recognizable identity. If your site's logo always appears in the upper left corner of the browser window, then a visitor will instantly recognize a page as part of your site. The more elements that are common across pages, the greater the sense of site identity.

  • It makes site navigation easier. Once a visitor knows where to look on one page for navigation, that knowledge applies to all pages of your site. The more familiar the navigation, the easier the site is to use.

Formats span a wide range of design. One site's format might use fancy style sheets, tables, graphics, and interactive content. Another site might restrict itself to a minimal subset of HTML 2.0, eschewing images and using header elements to structure pages. Each of these formats is distinctive enough to be instantly recognizable. What's more important for consistency isn't what goes into a format, it's how consistently the format is used across the site.

There are several ways to give your site a consistent format:

  • Use a template for page layout, with fixed locations for different areas (content, navigation, page information)
  • Use a common set of visual elements (graphics, typefaces, colors, etc)
  • Give your pages a Standard Header And Footer

Last updated 8 July 2003
All contents ©2002-2003 Mark L. Irons