We love sitting down with our tech friends for a good ol’ debate on flat design vs. skeuomorphic design. It eventually becomes an exchange of opinions on vintage vs. futuristic preferences.
In the end, flat design is sort of a retro throwback to simple designwork and clean, crisp lines. It’s counterpart, skeuomorphic design, takes on a newer, futuristic look (which many people tend to love).
As we inch more and more towards virtual reality, there’s a lot to be said for interactive, three-dimensional interfaces that really draw people into other dimensions.
But, let’s not forget our roots and let’s never rule out simplicity when it comes to web design.
We’re going to begin with a review of flat design and then enjoy an open-ended, honest examination of its pros and cons. Let’s get digitized.
What Is Flat Design?
The best way to visualize flat design is to think about the home screen on your phone or tablet. On a Microsoft Surface, for example, you’ll see distinctive but flat squares for each app. They’ve utilized a modular design that offers clean shapes and simplified icons.
On a brand new iPad or iPhone, you’ll see distinctive, 3D squares for each app. They appear to be slightly raised and hovering. This is what’s known as skeuomorphic design.
Skeuomorphic design uses realistic effects like drop shadows, highlights, reflections, beveling, and texture. It’s meant to resemble real-world objects, creating depth and dimension.
But, that doesn’t mean flat design is lacking in depth and visual attractiveness. It’s just not flashy; it’s minimalistic (which, by the way, is a word we hear more and more in culture and society).
Just because this type of designwork is, indeed, “flat,” that doesn’t mean it falls flat. Web, app, and logo designers can still use bright flashes of color in their flat design to quickly grab the eye.
So, don’t let people fool you if they try to intimate that flat UI design is boring. It’s quite the opposite; it’s intentional.
Pros and Cons of Flat Web Design
In our definition of flat website design, we’ve already alluded to a couple potential pros and cons. But, let’s not stop there.
Let’s explore flat design benefits and drawbacks. We wonder which end of the spectrum you’ll prefer.
First, let’s go back to that common word we hear a lot these days – minimalism. It’s a great concept. Minimalism is lacking in pretension and it never appears to be trying too hard.
Ornamental objects are seen as unnecessary clutter. And, in many ways, this is a valid argument. Simple images convey direct messages without a lot of flash and verve.
By removing 3D effects and replacing them with vibrant colors and clean lines, users will be able to receive your intended message and act accordingly.
Again, minimalism doesn’t mean neutral. In fact, one of the best ways to leverage flat design is to leverage color.
Color can delineate meaning and direct users to the appropriate menu options. In the end, what you have is clear, concise copy with well-drawn lines.
If you have a love for typography, then flat design may be for you. The two are a match made in virtual heaven.
Even if you remove bold splashes of color and reduce your designwork down to flat design and clean, crisp typography, you’re still making a striking statement.
With crisp icons and easy-to-read typography, you can create a wonderful, neat canvas for users to enjoy.
A white backdrop that embodies clean, crisp lettering and flat designwork is the epitome of minimalism and you can be sure there are legions of online users out there who will respond to that.
We’ve discussed several aestehetical components to flat design. Now, it’s time to get technical. With its grid-based layouts and simple graphics, this kind of designwork translates very well to both desktop and mobile devices.
Grids and simple designs quickly and easily resize to fit both desktops and mobile devices. And, as you may know, having a site that’s optimized for mobile will do well for your SEO. Google considers a website’s mobile compatibility when ranking it.
Grids or gridwork will come up quite a bit as you begin to answer the question, “What is flat design?” And, the truth of the matter is, this type of layout presents a very organized picture.
Every element has its place, its color, and its purpose. This makes flat design easy to scan and navigate. It’s commonly stated that humans only have an eight-second attention span.
That’s why bounce rates need to be scrutinized. We want people to not only visit our websites, but also stay a while. Clean, crisp designwork will aid in this endeavor.
Con: Lack of Delineation
If we’re being fair, we also have to present the flip-side of the coin with all this talk about gridwork.
Sometimes, when you visit a website, you’ll see all sorts of squares. There may be images, blocks of text, icons, logos, and more. Some of that may be clickable; some of it may not.
Without the existence of something that appears to be a three-dimensional button, it may be hard to decide if that image is actually a link that will take you to another page or not.
This could create missed opportunities if important features and actions aren’t plain to see.
Con: Lack of Distinction
When you draw life down to the basics, you’re deliberately removing some of the superfluous fluff. That’s a wonderful benefit for many people (in all areas of life, not just web design).
But, this also removes some of the embellishments from your toolbox. With flat designwork, a lot of the focus tends toward color and typography.
That means there could be fewer ways of differentiating yourself from the crowd. Perhaps you might examine your gridwork and consider different shapes and sizes.
But, again, remember that one of the pros of flat design is that it optimizes well on mobile platforms. So, by the same token, you don’t want to overcomplicate things too much.
Con: Lack of Intuitiveness
Intuitive design walks hand in hand with usability and low bounce rates. If it’s easy to navigate a site, people won’t be discouraged and they might stay a little while longer.
By removing most, if not all, three-dimensional effects like drop shadows, reflections, and beveling, it can, again, leave the user wondering where to click.
If they’re there for a primary purpose, say, to learn more about tiny house bathroom design, but it’s not obvious that the image of a faucet is the link to that knowledge base, then users might become discouraged.
Suddenly, it’s not easy to pinpoint the information they came for, and they may not stick around to enjoy your resources. This is a lose-lose for everyone.
Consider a Little Bit of Both
As with everything in life, few things are completely black or white. So, why not dabble in a little bit of flat design and a little bit of skeskeuomorphic design?
The industry is starting to refer to this as Flat 2.0 or almost-flat design. You’ve probably seen this type of work on some of your favorite blogs.
There’s usually an image with a small white box slightly overlain on the bottom. The box usually frames the title, subtitle, and/or the author.
This layering effect is a prime example of Flat 2.0. A tiny hint of shadowing is another component of almost-flat designwork.
You never have to commit strictly to one form of design. Feel free to dabble to the extent that you become pleased with your layout.
Be Your Own Designer
Be unique; be you. Create a website that points to your personality, preferences, and business goals.
Whether you strip your web design down to a minimalist flow or amp it up into a carefully choreographed expression of your vibrancy, don’t be afraid to explore.
Flat design is merely one small element in a vast work of UI design. Don’t be afraid to put your own unique twist on things because, as we see, there are pros and cons to everything.
And, when you’re ready for your website to go live, we invite you to come on over and visit us here at Popup Dominion.
We’re the makers of the world famous popup software that pioneered the industry and allowed business owners all across the globe to convert visitors into faithful subscribers and lifelong customers.
Clearly you have something to say. With the right popup software, you can dispense your information into the hands of those who need it.
Come check out our showcase, where we highlight our favorite high-converting popup designs. When you’re ready, allow us to turn all that traffic you’re seeing into meaningful conversions.