Anyone who follows web design news knows that flat design is one of the hottest things right now in the industry. If you have your own website, then you may be thinking about how to incorporate a flat design so that your site stays current.
But before you do that, here are some things you ought to know about flat design first.
The meaning of flat design.
If you think about it, the previous trend was to make everything look solid and realistic. Buttons, for example, had shadows, reflections, gradients, and bevels so that they look like actual buttons. Flat design is the very opposite approach. All these embellishments are eliminated, so that it seems everything looks “flat”.
The purpose of flat design.
Flat design is all about functionality and purpose. The overriding principle here is that the content and the message are the most important parts of the web page. Thus, embellishments and other distracting features must be eliminated so that the user’s focus is on the content.
Everything goes back to the fact that when a visitor goes to your website, they are looking for your content. They want to find out about something, or they want to do something, such as make a purchase. They’re not visiting your website because they want to marvel at the realism of your buttons and icons. With flat design, it’s back to basics—the content comes first before anything else.
Another related purpose of flat design is familiarity. Flat design came about by necessity because of the need to design for the smaller screens of smartphones and tablets. The size of the screen forced designs and websites to go simpler, so that the content could be understood by the visitor. Now even regular websites meant for standard PCs are going for flat design because their visitors are already familiar with the look, which makes everything easier for the visitor.
The point of simplicity.
Since the purpose is to focus on content, everything should be simple and clear. Buttons and icons are abundant, and they tend to adhere to simple shapes. They are all easy to click or tap. Design elements that are unnecessarily complicated are abandoned. Slide shows, for example, which seem to pervade a lot of websites that contain list articles, are no longer used. The same is true for animations. The point is to make everything easy for the user so there is no confusion as to what they should or can do.
And there’s another benefit in flat design for the designer—it makes the website easier to maintain. If you don’t have to bother putting in shadows and reflections, you have fewer things to worry about and you don’t use up as much time.
The function of typography.
Since simplicity is a key element in flat design, the choice of typography for the website is crucial. Obviously, it should be readable. But the font should be simple as well. The font, if you want a coherent look for your website, must match the
simplicity of the overall design scheme. If you use a highly ornate font, then it will create a dissonance with the overall simplicity of the design even though that font is actually quite readable.
Even the language and tone should be simple and efficient, to match the overall principle of the flat design. In general, with flat design simple sans serif fonts in bold are preferred. You may want to use a simple sans serif family with lots of variation and weight for your primary typography. You can break up the monotony here and there with a special font which can function as an art element, as long as you don’t overuse it.
The focus on color.
Just because flat design is simple doesn’t mean it’s boring, and that’s where color comes in. In order to avoid a boring look, the color palettes of flat design websites are usually more colorful and much brighter.
They also have more hues too. While other websites may use two or three colors, in flat design 6 or even 8 colors are typical. The hues also seem to be livelier as well. Primary and secondary colors are abundant, and they usually come in pure form without any tones or tints. Contrasts are common as well.
The suitability of flat design.
While flat design is a hot trend right now in web design, many designers agree that it’s not suitable for every type of website. Some websites are necessarily complex, and therefore flat design doesn’t match the overall objective. In addition, many websites wish to be different from the others.
It’s this desire to be different that’s actually fuelling the popularity of flat design. If it does become the dominant trend, then some websites which have previously used flat design to be different may revert to a more realistic design so that they can remain different from most other websites. So what does it all mean? Just this: flat design can be used for your website. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that it should be used for your website.