Web Development Trends: Flat Design

May 09, 2014
Alexandra Barcelona

What is flat design and is it right for your site?

Flat design is by far one of the hottest design trends at the moment, but what is it exactly? And, it is something you should be integrating into your site’s design? First, let’s start with what flat design is. It gets rid of the shadows, beveled edges, gradients and other aspects of a graphical user interface (GUI) in favor of simplicity and visual clarity. When computers and other digital technology first became mainstream, we needed visual cues that helped us recognize those things within the digital world with those things in our physical world. This is called skeuomorphic design. Think of a file folder on your desktop that looks like a manila folder you might see inside your file cabinet (if you still have one!). Now, most people are more familiar with icons on their desktop vs their real-life counterparts (think about a call icon on your phone, for those of us who remember landlines, we remember those phones, but what about newer generations who have no idea what a rotary phone looked like - or how to dial a number on it!).

Now that you have a better idea of what flat design is, the question becomes: is this a trend I should implement in my site? There are three things to consider to help you figure this out:

1) Who is the audience for your site?

Are you targeting a newer, younger audience? Then yes, flat design is probably a great fit. If you’re targeting senior citizens, they may not be as familiar with various digital interfaces and may not be as quick to pick up the non-analogical cue of your flat design elements (think buttons that look like physical buttons you would push in). However, it’s important to note that no matter where your target audience falls along the spectrum, EVERYONE appreciates a well-designed site.

2) What are you selling?

Flat design emphasizes minimalism. Which can be great, especially with the rise of mobile devices and users’ preference for these devices over desktops. However, is a minimal design a little too minimal for your product or service? For some who may sell complicated or detail oriented products (think healthcare products or services), going the minimal route may not be the best strategy for your business. This is also true if your site relies heavily on content. A lot of content gets cut when you switch to a flatter design, so you’ll need to decide if your site can survive without all its content. However, sites that sell common items (especially those with a simple design themselves) will most likely benefit from flat design. 

3) Is mobile part of your strategy?

Part of what makes flat design so appealing is how well it integrates into responsive web design. Building sites on grids for responsive design lines up perfectly (no pun intended) with some of the major design elements of flat design. Grids help keep items on your site organized, consistent, and help show visual order. Again, the minimal nature of flat design makes it a perfect candidate for flat design.

There are many arguments out there on whether or not flat design is just a trend, if it’s here to stay or if it’s already dead. Like any design trend, you need to make sure it’s right for your business as well as your target audience before you implement it into your site. Flat UI Design has some great flat design examples and inspiration to use if you decide flat design is right for your site.