Putting users first with flat design

With the launch of iOS 7 yesterday, Apple released the most dramatic change to its software since the iPhone first surfaced in 2007 – but the most notable change appears in the form of its flat design, which is taking much of the flack from fans, developers and critics alike. So let’s ask ourselves…what is flat design? And why is it becoming more and more popular in the digital world? Popular enough for tech-giants like Apple and Microsoft with Windows 8, to hop on the bandwagon…

Such is the dynamic world of digital that we’re all victims of fashion – and I don’t mean the snazzy t-shirts our developers rock-up to work in…ain’t no victims there. I’m talking about design trends.

In web design, trends are constantly changing so it’s important to have a grasp on what’s going on around you if you’re going to stay on top of your game. Earlier this year, Responsive Design was the most talked about trend in our industry – with some calling 2013 the ‘year of responsive design’ – but it’s had a lasting effect and we always make sure that any website we design offers great user experience no matter which screen it is being viewed on; responsive design was more than just a trend, it’s here to stay.

The Marmite of design trends

Despite its growing popularity in website and software design, iOS 7 was first unveiled in June of this year, to a massively polarising response. Some loved it, some hated it, but there weren’t too many sitting in the “meh” category. A similar thing happened when Microsoft launched Windows 8 last year, so it seems safe to say that you can’t make the leap from designs and layouts we all know and love, to flat design without expecting the odd hiccup. However, the question still bodes…”just what’s it all about anyway?”

Image of Bookmania font website homepage, an example of flat web design

Image of MailChimp website homepage, another example of flat web design

Image of hand holding iPhone using Blue weather app, an example of flat mobile app design

Screenshot of banner image from TripLagent website homepage, shows UI of their flat mobile app design

Flat design marks a distinctive shift from the textured, drop-shadowed styles of previous successors, towards flat colours, minimalistic icons and simple typography. The forthcoming era of flat design certainly is a triumph for the ‘less is more’ generation, but why is simplicity suddenly in such high demand? Two words: user experience.

Flat design is user-friendly

With so much information at our fingertips, there’s always a chance that things are going to get a bit overloaded or cluttered, which is exactly what flat design tries to eradicate; sometimes we just need things calming down, soothing our Chi – reducing the amount of clutter we have to sort through in the user interface, letting us browse in peace. In an information-heavy age, simpler designs allow us to carry on at the same pace, but feeling comfortable doing so – which is why there are so many simple, specialist apps sprouting up on iOS and Android; simplicity over complexity enhances the mobile or busy user’s experience.

Another factor that’s been influential in the emergence of flat design is the philosophy that content is very important; creating original, engaging content is a great way to enhance the user experience and start building positive relationships  – particularly since Google changed its algorithm with the Google Penguin update.

Truth is, it’s not always wise to follow trends in web design; but every now and then something comes along that completely blows everything out of the water. We’ve been talking for a while now about the importance of providing great, intuitive user experience and flat design is a massive step towards balancing the functionality of a website, app or specific software, with the user’s joy of exploring the digital world; so despite the mixed response to iOS 7, flat design looks like it could be staying for a while – as more and more catch on to the importance of user experience.

If you’d be keen to learn more about flat web design, the user experience and user interface – or pretty much anything from the world of digital – please sign-up to receive our email newsletter by scrolling to the bottom of the page. Cheers!

Josh Ryan Gill

About Josh Ryan Gill

Josh is the voice of our social media channels and marketing communications, applying his depth of marketing knowledge to the digital environment and working closely with clients to connect with their target audience. Google+