Marking a return to minimalism, flat web design is growing in popularity due to the smartphone and tablet revolution. Since mobile devices have smaller screens that require minimalistic websites, many sites use flat web design as a simple solution so that web pages can be read easily across all devices. Even Apple has made this shift, which has inspired a wave of website owners to consider flat design. Microsoft’s “Metro” design has also influenced this shift to minimalism.
The following information explains the key basics of flat design.
One of the most distinguishing things about the minimalistic approach is its use of simple shapes for icons, buttons and navigation. The idea that icons need to be elaborate is really not practical since icons are not what people spend time exploring. It’s the content they want, so graphics become secondary from a minimalistic perspective.
Any type of animated elements or slide shows are omitted from flat design while replacements can be an icon from Font Awesome or a simple photograph. The minimalistic approach also leaves out 3D embellishments like drop shadows, bevels and gradients.
Flat designs are not necessarily universal for all websites. If a site is meant to be complex with elaborate information then it should not be compromised by design style. It’s important to view the content as most important and the design as secondary, although design is still important for aesthetic value. But in prioritising important website features, content and site loading speed outrank visuals. This does not mean a flat design calls for dull visuals, although sticking with 2D images is more advantageous.
Designers who are accustomed to creating fancy 3D objects for website buttons may at first resist the idea of pulling back on creativity. But when you consider that users are more concerned about content than what a web page looks like, it’s better to focus more on content. Keeping substance prioritised over style is a smart strategy if you desire favorable search rankings in Google. Clean code is also part of the approach to flat web design, as is site familiarity and easy navigation.
Color and typography
Flat web design relies on vibrant colors to make up for lack of fancy typography. A basic sans-serif type font is usually preferred in this type of web design. Bold font is used for contrasting the color scheme. The text should be concise and not include extra flowery language to go along with the theme of minimalism. Light shadows and other effects can be used in flat designs to indicate interactivity.
Using color schemes for text and backgrounds instead of large graphics or animation is the more minimalistic way to make web pages look visually interesting. The brightest and most saturated colors work best for flat design because they stand out from both light or dark backgrounds. Flatuicolors.com gives you an idea of colors that work well.
Appeal of flat web design
The reason flat web design is popular these days is mainly for two reasons: familiarity and functionality. Mobile users feel comfortable with sites that look like the interface on their smartphone. The simplicity of the design is the key to its functionality. Sticking with a template or good color palette will help produce pleasing visuals that work for smartphones and tablets.
Flat web design ultimately puts the focus back on content instead of the bells and whistles that distract from the content. Since content is what visitors search for, flat design helps steer your website in the direction toward building an online community.
The idea of flat web design is not so much to take the flair out of web design as it is to maximise the experience for simple content sites. When objects become more like ornaments than functional tools they become excessive and in the way of consuming the desired content. Flat design emphasises working within the limitations of the digital experience.
By Aaron Enright