Flat Design User Experience (UX) topic overview/definition

Flat Design: Concept Definition

Flat design is a user interface design style that uses simple, two-dimensional elements and bright colors. It is often contrasted to the skeuomorphic style that gives the illusion of three dimensions through copying real-life properties. Its popularity became prominent with the release of Windows 8, Apple’s iOS 7, and Google’s Material Design, all of which utilize flat design.

Flat design was originally developed for responsive design, where a website’s content scales smoothly depending on the device’s screen size. With the use of simple shapes and minimal textures, flat design ensures that responsive designs work well and load fast (especially important since mobile devices have slower internet speeds). By reducing the amount of visual noise (in the form of textures and shadows), flat design provides users with a streamlined and more optimal user experience.

However, despite its popularity, flat design also has drawbacks regarding the user experience. The absence of three-dimensional effects (e.g., drop shadows) takes away the cues that indicate how a user can interact with a design. For example, buttons in the flat design style do not appear distinct from other visual elements on a webpage, and therefore do not appear clickable. Because of this danger, flat design is increasingly applied in a more balanced way, often referred to as “flat design 2.0” or “almost flat design.” This trend takes the clean and simple visuals from flat design and adds some subtle skeuomorphic qualities such as color variations and shadows. With this increased depth and dimension, visual variety increases and usability improves. For instance, Google’s Material Design and Apple’s iOS interfaces heavily use shadows and/or blurring effects to make their interfaces more intuitive to use.

For your convenience, we’ve collected all UX literature that deals with Flat Design. Here’s the full list: