Have you heard the term “flat design” in your dealings with Ottawa web designers? If you have had many dealings with them at all, you may have, but if you’ve not gotten into the specifics you may not be aware that your website can have flat (or not flat) features at all!
It is best to understand flat design by first looking at the predecessor, and some might say opposite, of this trend. Realism, also called rich design and skeuomorphism, attempted to make graphics and images as much of an online representation of their real-world counterparts as possible. Designers used many techniques, effects, and textures to make aspects of websites look detailed and imitate reality.
The downside of this design style, in addition to the amount of time and effort spent to add so much detail to the graphics, was the fact that the files were very big, and they would weigh down a website and make them run much slower. In addition, responsive websites became necessary and a simpler design style was needed so the files could grow and shrink without losing important aspects of their design and look.
Enter, flat design. This minimalist style focused on simple elements, typography, and flat colors. It was a more streamlined and efficient way of designing, with smaller files that allowed webpages to load quicker and on different sized screens. The flat style took away all 3D elements and stepped away from the need of computer icons to be skeuomorphic. Imagine cutting out shapes from a piece of construction paper and pasting them onto another piece of construction paper. This is essentially what your web designer is doing when they enhance your website with flat design. You can still have photograph images, but any design features (buttons, menu icons, original graphics) have that “flat paper” feel.
The year 2013 is said to be when flat design took over, as one important company hopped on board. Apple joined Microsoft and the many other companies that were already using flat design. Remember when the icon in the iPhone for photos looked like a photo of a sunflower? When Apple went to flat design this icon became a simple graphic of a colorful design resembling flower petals because they realized there was no longer the need for people to have to connect a real-world example with a digital one.
However, times change and trends change (the same in the web design industry as in the fashion industry) and flat design has never been free of criticism. What we are seeing now is an increase of the semi-flat or almost-flat design. One of the biggest problems with flat design was the lack of subtle indicators that showed users which graphics were for interacting with (such as a “click me” button). To solve for this, graphic artists are now adding simple shading or gradients that give clickable buttons a little more emphasis so users are more intuitively drawn to use them. The untrained eye might not even notice these subtle design tricks, but they are important for the flow of your online customer visits.
You may be wondering why this information is of importance to you. Think of our earlier comparison of the design world to the fashion world. While there are some pieces that are timeless, there are many that quickly look outdated. To stay competitive in the business world you must adopt the newest trends and stay on the cutting edge to beat out your competitors. In addition, you want to make sure that the files in your website are best optimized for your user’s experience, and not bogging it down and chasing users away.
If you think you would like to discuss semi-flat design and think you could benefit from a consultation with an Ottawa web designer, contact Marketing Breakthroughs and get the RESULTS you’re looking for!
For a fun and interactive tour of the flat vs realism debate, visit this website!