Flat v Skeuomorphic Design
Flat v Skeuomorphic Web Design
At our web design studio, we keep abreast of the latest design trends and over the past year we have seen a move from skeuopmorphic to flat designs. What does this mean?
Well skeuopmorphic designs reflected the physical world and were meant to add a feeling of familiarity to a user’s online experience. Remember Apple’s iBooks app that was meant to resemble a real library? You can see it on the left - this is an example of a skeuopmorphic design.
Skeuopmorphic design became so popular and was used so often, that we became overwhelmed with web designs cluttered with different colours, fonts, shadows and textures. We were simply overloaded with visual information.
That has now changed with the introduction of flat interfaces, which are much more simple and elegant.
Flat Web Designs
On the right you can see the new flat iBook design from Apple which focuses on usability and much less on the visual distractions inherent in skeuopmorphic designs.
Flat designs are streamlined and crisp, they embrace the limitations of 2D, unlike skeuopmorphic designs which tried to turn 2D images into 3D. Flat designs are all about developing faster and more functional, user-friendly interfaces.
No one can really say what drives trends, but there are three important factors that appear to have led the charge towards flat designs.
So much of our time is spent online today, that skeuopmorphic designs practically became visual pollution. We were too visually stimulated on a continual basis and longed for less clutter and simpler, cleaner design.
With the advent of touchscreens, controls and buttons no longer needed to be large and gaudy - so they were not missed on the screen. Touchscreens are a quicker, more intuitive way to interact with a computer and lend themselves well to flat designs.
The demand for responsive designs that display flawlessly across all mobile devices, really saw the end to many skeuopmorphic designs. On these smaller devices there is no room for the clutter and visual distractions of skeuomorphic designs because they waste too much valuable white space on smaller screens.
Is This the End of Skeuopmorphic Design?
Well no, not really. There is certainly a place in website design for sites that are visually stimulating and mimic the real world. It just means that we need to be more selective in our use of this flamboyant design style and use it where it makes sense to the user.
One approach is to start with a flat design and add in 3D elements, such as drop shadows, to emphasise certain features on a page. It is all about balance and functionality mixed with visual aesthetics – and everyone has a different opinion on what is and is not visually appealing.
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