Web design, like other types of design, is always evolving and going through cycles. Just as there are trends in fashion, architecture and car styles, there are web design trends. One of the biggest of these in 2016 is something called flat design. Even if you’ve never heard of flat website design, you’ll soon be hearing more about it. Let’s look at what flat design is, why it is getting so popular and what advantages it offers.
What is Flat Design?
Flat website design is an unexpected trend in some ways. That’s because, instead of introducing new high tech features and fancy effects, it’s actually a move in the opposite direction. Flat design is simple, minimalistic and even retro. It’s a step backward from the tendency towards making websites complicated and ultra-realistic.
Some of the main characteristics of flat design are:
- Clean and simple.
- Two-dimensional rather than three-dimensional.
- Bright colors.
- Open spaces.
- Use of icons and simple images rather than realistic graphics.
In technical terms, flat design can be contrasted to skeumorphic design. While flat design is simple and minimalistic, skeumorphic design is 3D and realistic.
This is actually closer to the way early websites were designed, before sophisticated graphics and design tools were available. Flat design, then, is a kind of retro trend, similar to what is often seen in fashion. However, in the case of flat web design, there are practical as well as aesthetic reasons why it’s making a comeback.
The best flat web design sites on the web
The following are some examples of the best flat web design sites on the web. Use them for inspirations for your own website.
Advantages of Flat Design
Some people prefer the minimalistic look of flat design. Others, however, prefer it for more pragmatic reasons. There are some definite benefits to using this type of design. Let’s discuss below:
Faster page loading speed
One of the drawbacks of using high resolution graphics and lots of effects on your website is that it slows down page loading time. This can cause people to leave your website, as many visitors don’t have the patience to wait more than a few seconds for pages to load. It can even harm your SEO, as Google considers page loading time when ranking sites.
The rapid growth of mobile devices is one of the factors behind the flat design revolution. As more and more people access the Internet from mobile phones, it’s essential to build websites that can be viewed from these devices. Flat design is responsive, meaning it works well on any device. Fancy graphics and 3D designs, on the other hand, are slow loading or may not be view-able at all on mobile devices.
Easy to understand
For most websites, it’s a real advantage to have your message grasped quickly. Flat design provides a “just the facts” kind of approach, making it easy for visitors to understand the message.
One of the characteristics of flat design is an absence of clutter. A web page that’s full of graphics and other elements can distract visitors, making it harder for them to see your call-to-action. Flat design makes it easier for the visitor to absorb your main message.
These are some of the reasons that flat design is making a comeback. However, this doesn’t mean that everyone should suddenly switch to this type of web design. There are potential drawbacks to flat design as well, especially if your website depends on realistic graphics for one reason or another.
Drawbacks and Limitations of Flat Design
There is a potential downside to using flat design. It really depends on what type of website you have. There are also different ways of applying flat design, just as there are many ways to implement 3D or skeumorphic design.
Lack of 3D effects
This is obvious, as flat design, by definition, is 2D rather than 3D. In certain fields and niches, this is not practical. For example, if your website has anything to do with gaming, architecture, engineering or fashion, you will need to convey as much detail as possible.
Hard to distinguish elements
When used properly, flat design is user-friendly and allows for simple navigation. However, if you overdo certain elements, such as icons, it can make things confusing. For example, one benefit of a 3D Call-to-action button is that it’s easy to see. If you have lots of 2D icons, visitors may not know which ones are clickable. This, however, can be remedied by keeping another flat design principle in mind – simplicity/no clutter.
Lack of originality
This doesn’t apply exclusively to flat design, but when you follow a trend you have to be careful not to simply copy what others are doing. As flat design becomes popular, it’s becoming common to see web pages that are very similar to existing ones. No matter what kind of design choices you make, it’s important to come up with your own concepts.
Benefiting From Flat Design
Here are a few tips for incorporating the principles of flat design into your own website.
Study examples of flat web design
When you visit websites, take note of whether or not the site is using flat design. Whether it is or isn’t, take note of what works or doesn’t work on the site.
Use flat design in an original way
While it’s good to look at what others are doing, make sure you create your own unique design. Remember, one of your goals is to brand yourself.
Mix elements of flat and 3D design
While we can distinguish between 2D and 3D or flat design and skeumorphic design, not every website has to be completely one or the other. You may want to scale down and simplify your website, drawing inspiration from flat design, while still keeping a few 3D images or effects.
While not ideal for all purposes, the benefits of flat design make it likely that this is going to be a long-lasting trend. With the emphasis on fast-loading pages and mobile-friendliness, there are good reasons to use this type of design for most websites. As noted, there are exceptions, such as websites that require 3D effects for either illustrative or entertainment purposes.
Flat web design is a growing trend for several good reasons. Whether you choose to implement it partly or fully on your own website, you should at least be familiar with its benefits.