Latest Website Design Trend: Flat

Flat design was listed among the top website design trends we saw coming for 2014, but like the trend toward dynamic backgrounds, its rise in popularity deserves a closer look.

Flat Design vs Rich Design

First, let’s define ‘Flat Design’ when it comes to website design.  Flat Design is the absence of effects that make objects appear 3D or make them stand out like drop shadows, gradients, textures, bevels and so on. A designer might describe flat design as feeling crisp and modern where the content (rather than the design elements) is the hero.

Flat Design is the antithesis of ‘Rich Design’ which, as you’d expect, embraces the use of design ‘ornaments’ like gradients, reflections, bevels, drop shadows and the like. Supporters of Rich Design argue that it offers a more tactile, sensory, intuitive experience.

While Flat Design may seem simplistic, it is in no way simple. In fact, Flat Design poses serious challenges to both website designers and web developers as the broader palette of visual cues available in rich design are stripped back to a much more compact toolbox. With Flat Design, making links and buttons easy to find and use can be more difficult whereas a Rich Design site could just make use of some shiny, 3D buttons.

Apple finally embraces Flat Design

Whether Flat Design is a passing phase or a step forward in the evolution of website design remains to be seen but when big players like Apple step into the realm, designers and developers everywhere take note.

Apple’s iOS6 rich, skeuomorphic icons finally give way to Flat Design iOS7 in 2013.

And it’s not just Apple sporting the Flat Design. Microsoft has long favoured Flat Design and the trademark Google look is generally flat too.

Google Trends is an excellent example of flat design and the company’s commitment to it. The visualisation page is made up simply of brightly coloured grid squares, generic sans serif typeface and a simple geometric sliding function.

Flat Design Latest Website Design Trend

Google Trends is a poster child for Flat Design.

Presumably, there are a number of reasons Flat Design is being adopted by the big players including:

  • Trending aesthetics
  • Usability benefits of minimalist approach
  • Increased focus on content over design ‘ornaments’

And there is one more very tangible reason Flat Design has surpassed Rich Design in popularity…

Catering to Responsive Design requirements

The shift toward Flat Design is not entirely based in aesthetics. The need for apps, websites and software to work perfectly across a wide range of screen sizes and browser constraints is one very practical reason to use Flat Design.

Responsive web design calls for fewer embellishments and design elements that need to be loaded and resized, making Flat Design intrinsically more suitable than Rich Design, where many elements are difficult, even impossible to render across a range of devices.

No website design one-size-fits-all

In the fast-paced world of web development and website design, it’s impossible to know if Flat Design is just a fad or an important step in the evolution of web development and design. Two things are for sure; as technology allows, website design trends will continue to evolve and secondly, every website needs to be designed to suit the unique brand, audience and business objectives of each organisation, regardless of the latest trends.

According to one of our Digital Designers Ben, opting for Flat Design or Rich Design is not a case of either-or, “If you imagine Flat Design at one end of a spectrum and Rich Design at the other, you’ll find that most good design sits somewhere along the spectrum. Right now all we’re seeing is a leaning toward Flat Design but that doesn’t mean we need to completely abandon every design element and make all sites the same.”

iFactory is a full service digital agency with the marketing expertise to determine the most effective website design style for your business as well as the development capabilities to translate that into a user-friendly, responsive website that works to deliver on your business objectives. From childcare to aged care, manufacturing to mining, every iFactory web development project is tailored entirely to unique needs of each client. To find out more about making the web work for you call us on 07 3844 0577 or request a call back and we’ll get in touch with you.

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