Post by
Nasir Uddin
Published
February 14, 2024
Catregory
UI Design
Read time
5 min

Do you remember the Windows 8 interface? The buttons were clean, minimalist, and aesthetic, with a focus on simplicity and vibrant tiles. That's actually what flat design is all about.

The use of this design approach in digital products was introduced back in 2012, and it's still in high demand today.

But why do people still opt for it over the realistic look of skeuomorphism?

Well, the answer is pretty straightforward – it removes destruction and reduces page load time. Flat design is all about cutting out the extras and focusing on what really matters. It's like creating a clean, clutter-free space that smoothly guides the user's eyes through the interface.

Anyway, you probably have already understood that today we are going to discuss flat design and its importance in UI/UX. So, without further interruption, let’s get started…

What Is Flat Design in UI  UX?

Flat design is a straightforward way of creating digital user interfaces, such as websites and mobile apps. It's all about keeping things clean and simple, using uncomplicated elements, typography, and flat colors. The main idea is to convey information quickly while making sure things look good and are easy for users to navigate.

With this approach, you get a decluttered look without any fancy decorations or 3D effects. It takes inspiration from minimalist design movements like the International Typographic Style, modernism, and the Bauhaus school. The trend really picked up with the launch of Windows 8, iOS 7, and Google's Material Design.

Spacey layouts, sharp edges, vivid colors, and two-dimensional illustrations make this approach stand out. It's a practical and modern way of presenting information efficiently. Some people argue that it sacrifices a bit of intuitiveness due to the absence of 3D effects, but it remains a popular choice for its sleek and functional aesthetics.

What are The Characteristics of Flat Design?

Flat design was actually introduced to build websites and mobile apps that are highly responsive in various screen sizes. Upon incorporating it into your digital product, you will see the following characteristics:

  • Two-dimensional elements: It uses simple, two-dimensional elements, skipping shading and detailing to create a more minimalist design.
  • Minimalism: It features simplicity of shapes and elements, bold and highly readable typography, and clear and strict visual hierarchy, with a focus on cleanliness and order.
  • Functionality: It allows UI designers to think of their designs more as functional tools rather than aesthetics, creating functional websites that deliver information in a fast and straightforward way.
  • Bright, high-contrast colors: It employs bright, high-contrast colors to create a modern and digital-friendly aesthetic.

Why Is Flat Design Important?

Flat design is not just about simplicity and minimalism it also ensures a lot of other essential benefits for a website. As a result, your website has become better and more user-friendly.

It Improves Readability

Imagine a design that's stripped of all the fancy extras, like gradients and shadows, leaving you with a clean and sleek look. That's the essence of flat design. This simplicity cuts through the visual clutter, letting users focus on the content without getting distracted by unnecessary details. 

Plus, the vibrant colors and high contrast make it easier to read and understand the information. To top it off, flat design often uses plenty of white space, giving the text room to breathe and preventing it from feeling cramped.

Apart from that, the flat design uses simple, clear, and bold typography like sans-serif that makes the text more visible, So when the readers read the text, they see it without any blurry effect. 

This overall simplicity and clarity create a more user-friendly experience, making it quick and easy for users to engage with the content. In the end, flat design enhances readability in a visually appealing way.

It Removes Interruption

Flat design helps you stay focused by keeping things simple. It avoids fancy visual effects and extra decorations, opting for a clean and straightforward look. This way, you can concentrate on what matters— the content— without getting bogged down by unnecessary details. 

Bright and lively colors are often used to add energy, making the experience vibrant without adding more distractions. Take the Google logo, for example. In 2015, they switched to a flat design, removing the shadows, 3D effects, and fancy stuff. This makes it cleaner and less distracting.

It Reduces Page Load Time 

Simply put, a flat design can make websites load faster. A study by Kimp revealed that every extra second it takes for a page to load between the first and ninth seconds results in a 2.11% drop in conversion rates. How does flat design tackle this? By cutting down on the amount of data that needs to load. 

Take Google's Material Design as an example. Since 2014, it has embraced flat design principles with simple shapes, vibrant colors, and neat typography. This approach isn't just about aesthetics; it's about efficiency. By simplifying the design and minimizing the data to load, the flat design contributes to quicker page loads. So, it's not just about looking good – it's about websites working faster and smarter, leading to better conversion rates.

It Enhances Functionality and Efficiency 

We've talked about how the flat design is like a readability savior. It clears away the clutter, keeps things simple, and makes your page load faster. All of this stuff works together to make your website smoother and more efficient.

So, when your text is easy on the eyes, you don't waste time figuring things out. Plus, if the design isn't overwhelming on your screen, users can breeze through their tasks without any hiccups, making their experience top-notch.

The best part is that a speedy page load means your website is a speedster on the internet. In the long run, that helps your site climb the Google rankings. 

It Makes Websites SEO-Friendly

The clean and simple look of flat design actually does wonders for SEO, making websites more visible and user-friendly. It's like having a beautifully organized platform that's easy to browse through.

As you already know, this design style helps websites load faster. And this speed is a big deal for search engines. Search engines always give preference to speedy websites!

This type of design also makes it easier for people to read and navigate around a site, which keeps them engaged. When people stick around longer, search engines notice and think, "This site must have something good to offer!"

As a result, navigation and indexing become a breeze for search engines with flat design. It's like giving them a clear map of your website. Using simple fonts and design elements makes it easier for web crawlers to understand what your site is all about, which helps boost your SEO ranking.

What Are The Drawbacks of Flat Design?

While flat design has many positive aspects, not everyone is embracing it because of a few unavoidable downsides. Let's explore the drawbacks that are preventing it from gaining widespread acceptance.

It’s Less Intuitive

Many users find fault with flat design because it's not very intuitive. The problem is that it's so basic that designers don't use enough visual cues. This makes it tough for users to move around and grasp what different elements do.

To deal with this, some people turn to more detailed designs like skeuomorphism, but those can be too busy and slow things down. So, they try to fix this problem in a different way.

It Lacks Distinctiveness

To make the interface simple and less ornamental, designers often opt for a similar design approach for each interface, button, and content. As a result, every interface looks alike. Consequently, this approach harms the visual distinctiveness of different actions, buttons, icons, and contents. This type of approach can be very confusing for the users. 

It Limits The Use of Color And Typography

Flat design keeps things simple by using fewer colors and avoiding fancy fonts. While this approach can make a design look clean, it might not be as interesting for users. Following a brand's design guidelines can be challenging when there are limits on color choices.

It Hardens Detecting Clickable Elements 

Some designers get into the trap of focusing too much on aesthetics to accentuate flat design's clean, streamlined attributes — to the point where it severely affects a design's usability. 

It can be challenging to determine what is and is not clickable since everything is flat, on the same visual plane. Users couldn't distinguish what was clickable as there were no shadows. Essential features and actions may be hidden from view, or familiar visual cues may be missing – all in the name of simplicity.

It’s Inability to Standout 

Whether a website, app, business card, event poster, or something else, every company, brand or individual pursuing a design project wants the results to reflect their unique characteristics.

One disadvantage of flat design is that it encourages designers to stick to a simplified, narrowly defined visual style, which might result in designs that look pretty identical. Designers are constrained to a minimal number of flat design principles while designing user interfaces. 

To solve these issues, a new version of flat designs is introduced. 

Is Flat Design 2.0 a Better Solution?

Yes, according to the experts the  Flat design 2.0 is a better solution to Flat design. It takes the minimalist principles of flat design and adds a touch of sophistication. It's like the older sibling who's still cool and trendy, but also knows how to dress for success.

One of the main criticisms of flat design was that it could be a bit confusing to use. Sometimes it was hard to tell what you could click on and what was just decoration. Flat Design 2.0 solves this problem by adding subtle shadows and highlights to important elements. It's like putting little guideposts along the way to make sure you're heading in the right direction.

Flat Design 2.0 is also a bit more layered than its predecessor. This means that different elements of the design appear to be at different depths, creating a more visually appealing and easy-to-read interface. It's like adding dimension to a painting to make it come to life.

Overall, Flat Design 2.0 is a more refined and user-friendly approach to flat design. It's the perfect choice for designers who want to create modern, sophisticated, and easy-to-use interfaces.

For a better understanding of what changes flat design 2.0 made, check out the table below.

Conclusion 

The beauty of the flat style is that it is straightforward and uncluttered. The design is contemporary and neat due to its sharpness and various elements. If it is too simplistic, it may be incapable of conveying a complex visual message. 

Some experts believe this simplicity may be a drawback, but who can say for sure? After flat design 2.0, a new version can be on its way. Usability and usefulness are the cornerstones of a well-designed product. It is up to you to choose a style for your website, as there is no universal design for websites.

Table of Contents
Nasir Uddin
CEO at Musemind
Nasir Uddin, Co-Founder and CEO at Musemind, brings over a decade of experience in dynamic UX design. With a background at prestigious companies like Panther, On Deck, Microsoft, and Motley Fool. His leadership has transformed Musemind into a trusted destination for comprehensive product design solutions.
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