Web viewers have a lot going on. In addition to the tasks or goals they are trying to accomplish on your website, they also must contend with “where am I” questions, and “how to” questions that arise as they move around in your content. This is why web standards are so important, and why it is so important that your content be consistent and exhibit parallelism.
Consistency and parallelism have long been used by technical writers, but in the Wild West that is the internet, most of the content creators don’t even know about these two crucial qualities. What exactly are they?
Consistency simply means that your information should look the same and have the same structure throughout your website. Headlines should all use the same typeface and size, links should all look the same, and navigation should be similar. Things should be called the same thing everywhere. Actions should do the same thing everywhere.
Parallelism, (and here I’m talking beyond grammatical parallelism) is really just a specific form of consistency, or another way to think about consistency. If you’re creating anything comparitive or instructional–a chart, a table, a graph, captions, lists, or bullet points–try to make even your sentence structure as parallel as possible.
Finally, here are 10 rules of thumb for evaluating your own website, and an example of a website where I make an ongoing effort to be consistent.