Why Flat Design is Taking Over

August 2, 2013 Emily Bauer

You’ve probably noticed a recent shift in the way many websites and mobile apps look, moving from a sort of realism and complexity to more basic shapes, clean lines and two-dimensional, flat images. The new, simpler layouts and graphics are part of a growing design trend known as flat design — and anyone involved in the tech or digital marketing industry should be curious about an emerging design trend with so much traction.

What Is Flat Design?

Flat design is becoming increasingly pervasive. You’ve probably seen and interacted with numerous examples of flat design on your phone and online, even if you didn’t realize it at the time. Flat design is a growing trend being adopted by big companies and small firms alike, but what exactly defines it?

Common visual elements of flat design are simple icons, bright colours, clean lines and two-dimensional shapes. The previous prevailing design trend, known as skeuomorphism, tended towards three-dimensional, raised images, with shadows and depth to make the objects appear more lifelike. Sure, flat design is a refreshing change from the detailed styles of older apps and websites, but what are the larger implications for users?

As more companies continue to make the switch to flat design, it’s becoming more obvious that flat design is chosen for its simplicity, with the user experience in mind; it’s becoming clear that flat design is tailored to provide an easier, cleaner user experience.

Why You Should Care About Flat Design

As interesting as it may be to learn about the ups and downs of mobile and web design trends, it’s more important to recognize the significance of what this design trend means for marketers in general. Aside from looking kind of cool, what are the true benefits of flat design? Why is this trend emerging and what does flatness bring to the user experience?

It’s not just that mobile interfaces have begun to look less skeuomorphic; flat design is a philosophy about user experience as much as it is about visual aesthetics. The top benefits that flat design brings to the user experience include:

  • Minimalist interfaces with reduced clutter
  • Clearer goals for user interaction
  • An increased emphasis on functionality over aesthetics
  • Easier to maneuver and understand as a first time user

Design is as important as content when it comes to developing a new website, app, or mobile product. The popularity of flat design will continue to grow because it strips away unnecessary parts of an interface and simplifies the user experience.

Notable Examples of Exceptional Flat Design

Whether you’re seeking inspiration or just want a clearer understanding of what flat design looks like and what it can achieve, here are several notable examples of flat design done well:

Apple’s iOS 7

Only the developer’s preview is currently available, but Apple’s newest mobile operating system is already one of the most well known examples of flat design. At this June’s World Wide Developer’s Conference, Apple revealed the completely flat interface for the highly anticipated iOS 7, which contrasts deeply with the traditionally skeuomorphic style of all former iPhone operating systems. The new system is slated for public release sometime this Fall.

Flat design isn’t just something that big businesses are adopting; plenty of smaller companies and local developers are getting in on the action as well. Here are two of my favourite examples of flat design in iOS applications:

Letterpress

The ingenuity of this word game extends beyond the actual gameplay to the candor of its design. The game was among the winner’s of the 2013 Apple Design Awards, thanks to its “beautifully understated game interface” that makes Letterpress appear “deceptively simple”.

Wake Alarm

Another example of flat design for iOS, Wake is a new kind of mobile alarm clock that combines simplicity and sleekness with a unique user experience. Created by a local developer from Toronto, Wake Alarm is both easy on the eyes and easy to use—a cornerstone of quality flat design.

Although I’m a big fan of iOS apps, the influence of flat design extends across various mediums and platforms. Two additional big name examples of flat design are Windows 8 and Google Now, but numerous mobile products, applications, and websites have adopted the style.

Flat design is more than just a fleeting design fad; its popularity and potential have huge implications for the tech industry, particularly when it comes to offering an ideal interface for the user. The overall user experience crafted with flat design is an improvement over that provided by skeuomorphism, because when an app or website is designed to be functional above all else, it is the user who benefits—and happy consumers are always good for business.

About the Author

Emily is a freelance writer based in Toronto, Ontario who covers a range of topics from technology to travel. She holds a Bachelor in English Literature and Business from the University of Waterloo. No matter how many projects she is working on, Emily always finds time for baking, reading, and yoga.

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