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Flat Design: Features and Best Examples for Inspiration

06 December 2021, Monday By Priyanka Boruah
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Different styles in web design give designers freedom of creativity, make sites different from each other. One of the most popular styles today is flat design - a minimalistic concept aimed at increasing the level of website usability and simplifying the overall page layout. In this article we will talk about the features of flat design and its principles, give examples and talk about the main problems of the flat style.

Contents

WHAT IS FLAT DESIGN

BASIC PRINCIPLES OF FLAT DESIGN

USABILITY FOR FLAT DESIGN

FLAT DESIGN PROBLEMS

WHO IS FLAT DESIGN FOR?

5 FLAT DESIGN EXAMPLES FOR INSPIRATION

WHAT IS FLAT DESIGN

Flat design, became popular in the 2010s when Microsoft released a new system with a minimalist style, as opposed to Apple's skeuomorphism, a design dominated by realistic effects.

FLAT DESIGN

Flat design implies minimalistic solutions, simple user interface. Geometric shapes are often used, with no visual effects overlapping. Flat design creates the feeling of a stylish and modern resource, makes the content understandable for perception. Let's consider the basic principles of flat design and the features of their application.

BASIC PRINCIPLES OF FLAT DESIGN

Principle 1. Nothing more

This style is called flat because all the elements do not look three-dimensional. This effect is achieved by the absence of various decorative details: shadows, textures, highlights, gradients, and so on. It is based on simple shapes with 2D images.

simple shapes with 2D images

The contours of the forms are clear and laconic. The emphasis is on simplicity of the interface, content, both textual and graphical. Thanks to these techniques, the design becomes light and weightless.

Minimalism and simplicity have encouraged flat design to be used to improve website usability. Clear structures, laconic forms make the interface intuitive, allow the client to quickly find the information he needs and take the target action.

Principle 2. Two-dimensional graphics

The simplification affected not only forms and buttons, but also graphics. Flat design style - 2D illustrations that are used as full-fledged images in galleries, sliders and other areas of the site.

Two-dimensional graphics

Illustrations emphasize the simplicity of the elements, create a uniform style for the entire site and give originality to the resource. Along with 2D graphics, outline and solid icons are also used.

2D graphics

Photos and other images are also used in flat design and set up as a separate area on the site. For example:

Photos and other images

The peculiarity of such images is also the absence of any extra eye-catching elements, the design is in the same style.

Principle 3. Readable typography

The flat style removed all unnecessary from the design and brought the content on the site to the fore. Therefore, it has become especially important for the user what typography is used on the resource.

Related: Typography in Web Design: Basic Concepts and Current Trends

Readable typography

The lack of shadows and other decorative details led to the fact that the texts began to be perceived in a different way. Mostly flat design uses sans serif fonts for a better user experience. So the texts became easy to read, more attention was paid to the content and location on the site.

Sometimes typography plays the role of a navigation element. For example, the menu on the site is designed in a minimalist style and only the names of the sections are left. In this case, the text should be readable and noticeable to the user.

Principle 4. Color accents

Another feature of flat design is the color scheme used. Mostly it is a white background, one main color for the elements (often muted) and different color accents. This scheme is very well illustrated by an example:

Color accents

Sometimes non-standard colors are used, which distinguish the resource from other sites of a similar subject. Typically flat designs use pure shades to create a fresh, neat feeling.

Usually the palette includes 2-3 colors; several color accents are also used for small elements - icons, details in illustrations. However, some designers deviate from the generally accepted rules for choosing a color scheme and use all the colors in their spectrum.

Principle 5. White space

To create a sense of lightness, designers use not only solid colors, but also correctly allocate space on the site. To do this, use the principles.

The designer arranges the elements taking into account the spaces and air between them, as in this example:

White space

Also, special attention is paid to the composition of the site. Typically, designers try to create a layout using a modular grid to facilitate layout and improve the user experience of the layout.

It is necessary to carefully monitor the use of space on the site and not overdo it. Sometimes designers add too much air between elements and the user gets lost on the page, does not understand how the navigation on the site is carried out. The page turns into an endless set of elements without visual motivation to scroll further, and the user leaves the site.

USABILITY FOR FLAT DESIGN

Flat design is a powerful tool for creating aesthetically pleasing designs. With flat design:

  • the readability of the text is improved - users can more easily perceive text information thanks to clear fonts and a contrasting background;
  • content comes to the fore - in flat design there are no unnecessary elements that distract the user and interfere with perception;
  • the site loading time is reduced - the page is not loaded with "heavy" elements and you do not risk losing clients due to a long wait;
  • the navigation structure of the site is improved - a clear visual hierarchy structures the content, so it is easier for the user to navigate the site;
  • Easily adapt the layout to any device - a simple interface and grid layout helps developers adapt the design for mobile phones, tablets and other devices;
  • you can make the site original and attract the user's attention - flat design is a stylish solution for those who want to stand out from the competition and take into account the user experience.

However, despite all the advantages of the flat style, there are several issues that a developer should consider when creating a website design.

FLAT DESIGN PROBLEMS

Despite all the advantages, users occasionally encounter problems in using the interface based on flat design. Some designers fixate on simplicity and aesthetically pleasing look and forget about usability. Let's take a look at some of the problems in user interaction and how to fix them.

1. Interactivity of elements

Flat elements (buttons, shapes, illustrations and icons) are designed in such a way that at first glance the user may not understand which of them is active and which is used by the designer for decorative purposes. This is especially noticeable on sites where the block structure is used:

Interactivity of elements

It is not clear which of these elements can be clicked on. As a result, the user starts checking all the elements in a row.

Solution: show active elements to the user. This can be done by changing the state on mouse hover, increasing small details on clicking, using easily recognizable icons (for example, a magnifying glass for searching). It is also better to abandon buttons that are styled with a stroke (outline - text).

2. Individuality

With the help of flat design, you can both distinguish your site from competitors, and vice versa, lose individuality. Simple geometric shapes, standard block layouts, and generic fonts can create similarities with other flat design sites. Such elements, although they are a stylish solution, limit the designer in his creative self-expression.

Solution: use bright colors, non-standard composition, unique illustrations and text content. This will keep overlaps with other web pages to a minimum and the resource will be unique compared to competing sites.

Individuality

3. Fonts

Despite the emphasis on typography in flat design, thin and light fonts have come into vogue, which significantly reduce the readability of the text and with it the conversion rate. Text is one of the main elements in building a sales strategy, so textual content should not be neglected.

Solution: use readable fonts, make texts interesting and useful for the user.

4. Navigation

Some designers simplify the navigation elements so much that it becomes unclear to the user how to proceed to the next section, how to find the information he needs, and what to do next. For example, icons are drawn so simplified that it is not clear which icon stands for what. This approach prevents the user from navigating the site and reduces the level of usability in general.

Separately, it should be said about the links on the site. Designers often neglect their design and the client becomes unclear which element leads to the next page. For example, blocks are designed in such a way that only the icon becomes clickable, and not the entire element as a whole.

Solution: think over the design of navigation elements and make them noticeable to the user with the help of color accents, giving depth with the help of long shadows. Use white space carefully.

If the user cannot determine which elements on the page are active, cannot read the text and does not know how to perform the targeted action, he will leave the site despite the aesthetically pleasing "lightweight" design. Therefore, when developing a design, you must first of all take into account the convenience of the user.

WHO IS FLAT DESIGN FOR?

Due to the peculiarities of flat design, this style is not for everyone. There are several parameters with which you can determine whether you need to create a site in a given style:

  • small texts and simple structure are needed. In this case, flat design will be appropriate and will be easily perceived by the user. If the company plans to write longreads and create a multi-page resource, this concept will not work;
  • target audience - young modern people. Such groups always welcome a modern approach to design and are easy to navigate;
  • low degree of interactivity. Complex resources with a lot of investment are very difficult to develop with flat design, where ease of use is the main parameter.

In other cases, an individual approach is required when choosing a design. It is necessary to take into account the complexity of the resource, the quality and quantity of content, the target audience of the site and many other factors.

With the development of technology, design systems also develop. Flat design is also undergoing changes and now the trend is "semi-flat" design - a concept in which elements are given volume for better interaction between the interface and the user.

This depth effect allows you to get away from many usability problems and at the same time remain a modern and fashionable design solution.

Related: Material Design - What is it for and why it is so popular

5 FLAT DESIGN EXAMPLES FOR INSPIRATION

Some designers need to look at nature to get creative, while others need to look at the work of other designers. You can read more about finding ideas, and here are some examples of flat design for inspiration.

1. Unique illustrations

Unique illustrations

Designers become illustrators themselves and create entire artworks for the main screens.

2. Color solutions

Others like to work with color and choose bright and rich shades to create atmosphere on the site.

Color solutions

All shades of blue are used for the home screen and later in the design of forms and calls to action. With the help of crimson shades, the author places color accents and draws attention to the buttons:

Web Page

3. Functionality

Another approach is to move away from illustrations and create a minimalist design with an emphasis on color and shape:

Web Page minimalist design

4. Photos

Some designers are more into photography. They design with images that are indistinguishable from real illustrations:

Webpage Photos

5. Structure

The block structure can be interesting too. Bright accents and typography - with the help of two elements you can grab the user's attention and keep it on the pages of the site.

Webpage Structure

Uses both flat design principles and other styles in your works. Follow trends in web development and work both with classic interfaces and applying various approaches of other design systems.

Related: Neumorphism in Interface Design: What it is and how to use it correctly
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