We revisted this blog post in 2017. Check out the update on flat design here!
The flat web design is all the rage at the moment, and has been for some time now. Some of us initially considered it to be just another trend that would eventually go away. But when companies like Microsoft and Google adopted the flat design, businesses around the world jumped on the bandwagon and are now using it for their websites.
Basically, the flat design refers to a technique that allows designers to use little to no effects in creating design schemes. This results in a design concept that seems flat to the eye, unlike the skeuomorphic three-dimensional feel we have so become used to. In a flat design, designers do not use tools and elements such as shadows, embossing, gradients or feathers.
How flat web design differs from traditional design
There are many elements that make this new method different its traditional counterpart. Traditional design results in websites that are filled with glossy buttons (slightly raised), floating marquee effects, cluttered information, and a vertical content layout. A flat design, on the other hand, includes elements such as:
A flat design: Just like the name suggests, this design is, well, flat. This means that there are no eye-popping shadows or gradients to buttons. Simplicity, if not minimalism, is prized here. Everything on a flat design website looks flat. The focus in this design is firmly on the content. Designers, therefore, have to concentrate on the content and present it in the best and the most compelling manner.
Attractive typography: Unlike traditional design, flat design is devoid of visual complexities and fluff. Typography is one of the elements that play a critical role in exemplifying the message of a website to its target market. Instead of being drawn to the fonts, users are drawn to the purpose and the content of an app or a blog post. The flat design has enabled designers to focus on typography and use it effectively in relaying the purpose of a website through content.
Use of color: Traditional design limits designers to overused metallic chrome and business blue color tones. With the new flat design, designers are able to focus on different colors. They are also able to experiment with new shades such as web green, lilac purple and peachy red.
Animation: With traditional design, animation has been largely ignored. Websites that have used animation have over-done it, taking away from its purpose or message. However, designers are paying more attention to this feature in flat design, which results in engaging animation and a more user-friendly interface.
With a flat design you can make websites that are contemporary and innovative. This design also lends itself beautifully to responsive themes. Given the increased use of mobile devices, a flat design is almost a necessity since it helps designers to create content-friendly layouts with user-centric features. A traditional design would make a website look rather bulky on a small smartphone.
How the flat design is better for users as well
It is trendy: The flat design is a hot trend that everyone wants to be a part of, but the biggest beneficiary of this trend is the end-user. It is a modern, fresh and clutter-free design, which loads fast and is easy on the eye. It also uses latest web design trends such as an extensive use of white/negative space and an emphasis on clear typography. Designers are now also using bright colors with flat design.
It is honest: This design acknowledges the fact that a screen is two dimensional in nature. It does not try to trick users by adding three-dimensional effects that fool them into thinking they are not interacting with a flat screen. It does not use 3-D effects, gradients, patterns, shadows or any other design elements that may represent things from the physical world. Instead, it makes a smart use of typography, colors and white space to create a usable and clear interface that users are taking to happily.
Easily scalable: This design is highly scalable. Design effects such as realistic images, typical of traditional designs, can be hard to scale. However, typography, color and other elements of flat design are easy to scale making such websites cable of adapting to smaller screens with ease.
For instance, rather than using styled buttons, a colored link can work for a flat design website. Content areas are also easy to identify in different devices because a variety of colors can be employed.
It's easy to use: This design does not contain distractions, since the emphasis is on a clean layout. It's easy for the users to make sense of, and access the information or content that they want with ease and efficiency.
With distractions removed, a flat web design focuses on the content and the goals of the website. Users are guided to relevant content areas with the help of a number of visual cues.
A flat web design aims to capture the essence of a website with minimal (if any) distraction, a trendy and easy-to-use interface, and a scalability that works like a charm with mobile devices. It's also fun and a huge improvement on the traditional design. It's no wonder it continues to gain in popularity. We are positive this design is here to stay and we'd be talking about it in 2016 as well!