In recent years there has been a shift in app and user interface design, from complex and three dimensional to minimal and flat. Even though this trend is quite widespread, we will consider how this occurred and how it is currently influencing user interface designs. In addition, we will explore some flat web design tips.
What Occurred ?
So, how did the preference switch from a desire to have everything in 3-D, textured, and busy to simple typography and flat colours? Numerous factors have caused this transition to occur. Here are several that are prominent.
Overload Of Information
In continuously connected modern cultures, there is an information flow that is non-stop. Some of this information is relevant and of importance, the majority of it is not. We are engaged in continuously filtering, evaluating, and even creating our own content, and it has become very tiring. Additionally, much of the content we consume is now viewed on smaller mobile devices. This trend contributes to a feeling of information overload. It is very easy to become overwhelmed with information, and a simpler, less cluttered user interface, provides people with some relief.
Simplicity Is In Vogue
In a trend that is similar, many web services and apps are now providing tools that are extremely focused with very limited features. In the traditional development of software, developers normally fill their design with numerous features in order to have justification for higher prices.
This trend to more focused and lighter weight apps features simplicity over complex functionality. Less complex apps require less complex user interfaces.
Focus On Content
It frequently occurs when new technologies and devices enter the marketplace, we become enthralled with how they can enhance interactivity and the functionality they provide. This period of fascination is normally succeeded by a return to focusing upon content. The consumption of content, be it audio, video, or text is the activity that most people engage in on their various internet access devices. When we are focused on content, we don’t want the user interface to impede us, we want it as simple as possible.
Increased Device Familiarity
As tablets and smartphones have become increasingly ubiquitous, concern about users being unfamiliar with device controls has diminished. In the past, designers were concerned that users may not find a button if it was not displayed on the screen. Today designers are able to explore interactions that are more subtle. Chrome for Android and Windows 8 even provide support for touch commands that have no visual indicator and begin off screen.
Influence Of Technology
Often software will have limitations based on the platform it operates on. In addition the resolution and dimensions of a screen are factors to consider. A minimal or flat interface requires limited design elements, which means each element must be used effectively. Font weight and typographic scale will be primary contributors to the usability and aesthetics of a flat web design. As resolution and screen size keep increasing on mobile devices, smaller and thinner fonts can be displayed with increased clarity.
With the rapid increase in the number of devices accessing the internet with displays that have varying resolution and dimensions, user interfaces have become more flexible, and responsive web design is used to implement this flexibility. Although responsive design doesn’t dictate a specific design aesthetic, it is clear that flat user interface designs will have better usability across a wider range of devices than most more complex styles. An additional flat design advantage is reduced loading time and page weight.
Flat Web Design Best Practices
Generating a minimal design that is effective is actually quite a challenge. As you reduce the number of UI features, like bevels, textures, and drop shadows, you will rapidly understand the importance of the few elements that remain. Most of the following guidelines are applicable universally, but they are particularly important to flat user interfaces.
Before You Start
Similar to any design project, the initial step is to make sure that the style you are choosing is suitable for your application. Prior to beginning a flat design, be sure it aligns with the needs of your target users and the target devices, platform and type of application. If it is an unsuitable solution for your application, it is pointless to follow a design trend.
The design process that you adhere to is important. Here are several concepts to think about when you are engaging in a flat design project.
• Comparing design versions adjacent to one another can be helpful. After making a change compare the versions. The best version will be quickly be apparent.
• Since the relative size of objects plays a key role, visualise your design on a number of differing target devices early in the design process so you will know if they will work
• As you proceed with your design, continually seek to eliminate elements that are not absolutely necessary to simplify your design.
The grid has an important role in interface design. As you are trying to increase usability and establish order in a project that utilises a restricted number of visual components, the grid will be helpful.
• Use the grid to define functional groups and content in addition to establishing visual order
• Attempt to break the grid with particularly important elements to attract the attention of the user. Without complex design elements, placement and scale are the best ways to create visual hierarchy.
• Try using a denser grid than you normally work with. When the visual palette is appreciably reduced, you might notice that your design can support a structure that is more complex while still appearing clean. Determine which information you can convey solely through placement.
Colour will always be a crucial visual design component. It is even more crucial with flat designs.
• Consider using a broad palette. With few elements from which to work, you can feel ok expanding your colour palette
• When you are setting your palette. Test the hues you have selected on a broad value spectrum to ensure they behave well in darker and lighter versions.
• It’s a good idea to experiment with stark type and tone on tone. Experiment with the palette early in the design to make sure you have sufficient range for both high-contrast and subtle elements.
Typography is particularly important when designing flat websites
• On flat designs, san serifs usually appear cleaner.
• Find a family of fonts that have a broad variety of styles and weights. A wide selection will assist you in defining hierarchy more effectively, and you may discover that certain weights display better in particular environments.
• In order to create a visual order you may want to pair fonts that have large differences in weight and size.
• Ensure that your fonts are legible at all scales.
In a user interface that is flat, indicating interactive elements can be tough. Here are some methods to consider.
• Contrast is important. If most of your layout is white, you could assign elements that are interactive to a particular colour. If your design is text-driven, for the most part, you can utilise simple iconography. If your headlines are lower-case and large, you may want to make links upper-case and small. It’s all about contrast.
• Conventional placement can also be helpful. For example if a slim chevron is utilised as a back arrow, you can place it on the upper-left portion of the site, where visitors may expect there to be a back button.
• In instances where user interaction is complicated or not expected, make it very easy for users to recover from any mistakes they may make.
• It can be problematic to use layered elements like fly-outs, modal windows, or drop-downs in a flat design. Make use of borders or tinting that have sharp contrast to visually separate interaction levels.
Web design should not have any absolute rules associated with it. Today, many designers are intent on designing simple and very clean UIs. Flat design doesn’t mean that you will never use a shadow or gradient, in fact some of the most successful designs balance dimension and flatness by intelligently presenting content while maintaining an intuitive user interaction.
With the enormous amount of information that most of us must process daily, the resurgence of minimal design is refreshing. However, it is not the correct solution for every project, but when it is applied appropriately and thoughtfully, it creates an extremely usable and pleasant digital experience.
How To Create A Flat Web Design