Web design is a constantly evolving ecosystem as tastes and technological developments sway what’s ‘in’ and what’s not. For tech start-ups, the ability to look cutting edge is particularly important so staying on top of the latest design trends is important.
The Design Revolution
For the last few years a mix of gradients, highlights and mirrored effects were in vogue as ‘flashy’ was in. These design choices were no doubt made popular thanks to the likes of Windows Aero and earlier versions of iOS, where looking literally ‘polished’ created a cutting edge vibe that designers scrambled to copy. As time has passed this look started to feel dated and overused as every ‘Web 2.0’ company scrambled to create the shiniest possible UI.
As always, most design revolutions start as a revolt against the current norm and the flat UI revolution is no exception. Inspired by the likes of Windows 8 and iOS 7, the flat web design trend stands in direct contrast to the polished look of yore by instead opting for simple block colours with a minimalistic design. Standing as the antithesis of what could be described as the over-design of recent years where designers scrambled to make every surface textured with gradient fills, shadows and highlights; the flat web design trend eschews these principles and goes back to basics.
A clean and simple design is created by creating two-tone blocks comprised of a foreground font colour (usually white) and a background colour. This creates a UI which is uncluttered and very easy on the eye. The flat web design trend emphasises large margins in design elements like buttons, which combined with the blocky design makes it ideal for tablet and smartphone users who might otherwise struggle with fiddly buttons on smaller screens. It is this that lies at the very heart of the flat web design revolution: usability, content and accessibility.
A Multi Device World
When desktops computers were still the standard means of accessing websites, designers could create UIs with little regard for concepts such as spacing because computer mice allow for a high degree of precision, which means even rather small and cramped elements could be distinguished and clicked relatively easily. In recent years, however, tablets and smartphones have made inroads as they continue to gain in popularity and a significant amount of internet users now use them to access websites. By contrast, PC sales have been suffering a decline for several consecutive quarters and there is no reason to believe this trend will reverse any time soon.
The rise in popularity of tablets and smartphones is a significant contributing factor towards flat web design. Whereas the ‘web 2.0’ design could take advantage of widespread high speed broadband connections to create image-dense designs, web designers once again need to be mindful of bandwidth limitations. 4G promises to offer high speed internet on phones but it is not yet the standard. Internet users used to the high speed internet enjoyed on PCs are not willing to accept slower websites on their phones, so a flat web UI helps to keep response times low even on slow connection speeds.
At its heart, the flat web design trend is all about creating a clean, minimalistic and low bandwidth design that looks good and loads quickly across all devices in an age where PC is no longer the norm.