Too many cooks can spoil the broth. Or, too many inconsistent styles can leave your website visitors totally lost. This is what can happen if you have a team working on changes without a clear guide to follow.
A style guide is a document that provides specific standards for a website’s design. It typically includes elements like color palette, typography, buttons and links, and iconography and graphics. It helps developers, designers, and the design process itself by refining the styles that are used.
It also helps show the variation of style used throughout the site and provides a bird's eye view of overall tone. This helps a team take a step back and consider possible changes or improvements.
Here are four reasons why your site absolutely needs a style guide.
Get Everyone on the Same Page
Every person on your team has their own opinions about what looks best and how things should be done. While they may agree on some things, they probably have quite a few differing opinions as well.
Help your team work well together by establishing specific guidelines for your site. A guide should be compiled after your team has worked with a few layouts and determined how the style will be applied. This provides a clear direction for future iterations and edits.
Rather than make a decision based on personal preference, every team member can refer to the guide. Front end developers will have clear values to reference for elements like hex value, font size and usage, link styles, and hover state behavior. Removing the decision making process from the equation also means your team will work more efficiently.
Create a Cohesive Style for Your Site
Everyone has visited a site that just had too many things going on. Maybe there was a hodgepodge of colors or too many different font styles or sizes.
Your style guide should serve as a means to create unity across your entire site. Gathering fonts, colors, and other design elements provides an overview of all of the styles that were used and helps limit those that aren’t used enough. Consistent fonts, colors, and spacing create a cohesive look across the entire site. Great design is heavily correlated with user experience, and you want your site visitors to have the best experience possible.
Improve Your Brand Recognition
Your style guide correlates strongly with your brand. What visual elements will best represent your brand’s personality? The color palette, typography, and imagery that you detail in your style guide should be carried throughout all of your marketing materials, like sales collateral, social media accounts, and trade show displays.
Cohesive style and theming helps your target audience identify and recall your brand more quickly. It can also help you flesh out the voice and tone that will come forth in your site copy. If your brand is trendy and modern, what visual elements best represent that?
Style guides are sometimes released publicly, let's say after a rebrand, as a marketing tool to show the logic behind design decisions. They also give some insight on the company's mission that can encourage trust in a brand.
Many large companies offer a brand or style guide download to showcase the company’s messaging, both to potential clients and to any non-employees who may need to use the brand’s assets. For example, an external designer may display aspects of your brand on their materials when you sponsor an event.
Establish Company Best Practices
A style guide reiterates that your company prioritizes thoughtful, prepared, and organized work. It’s also helpful for onboarding new employees. If you add a new person to your team, they’ll be able to quickly jump in and contribute with minimal styling errors.
It also helps to align other internal departments through shared ideals and guidelines. Involve your colleagues to get multiple eyes on the guide, check for inconsistencies, and provide ideas for streamlining the look and feel. A design team may have missed a couple elements that are unnecessary additions. A series of quality checks after preparation will further refine the guide.
Once you’ve finalized your style guide, your team will work more efficiently and more confidently, and you'll have a better website.