I have mentioned NN/g (Nielsen Normal Group) in many of my previous articles starting with “Being a newcomer in UX” where I suggested you to follow their blog. Knowing that, it cannot really be surprising that I am also an avid reader of the page.
It’s a stunner, because you can find white papers, analytics, assessments and countless of other treasures from the field of user experience. This morning, I have come across an intriguing article about the usability consequences of flat design: Flat Design: Its Origins, Its Problems, and Why Flat 2.0 Is Better for Users by Kate Meyer.
One of the biggest usability issues introduced by flat design is the lack of signifiers on clickable elements.
Says the author in the post. What this actually means that users cannot recognize if an element, let’s say a button, is clickable or not because of the lack of visual cues. These can be underlined text, color contrast creating box effect, placement of the element or either text implying that’s clickable (such as Sign up, View more, Send message etc.).
When a flat design uses a touch of shadows or layers to create a little bit of depth and therefore provide higher user experience, it’s called semi flat, almost flat or flat 2.0 design. And according to the article, that would be a suitable compromise between aesthetic and usability. (Flat 2.0 has a nice ring to it, hasn’t it?)
Although, I don’t deny that a fully flat design without any indicators about functionality truly provides a poor user experience, we cannot simply put an equal sign between flat design and usability problems assuming every design is the same. It all depends on the designer who decides whether aesthetic or usability should be favored.
Flat design doesn’t have to use depth in order to give suitable and recognizable signifiers, cues. There are alternative ways, I mentioned earlier, which can create the perfect balance of beauty and function without harming either. But of course, you can use shadows and call the design flat 2.0 by all means. Or just be creative and add enough indicators to your design.
Here at TACO, we love flat design as much as user experience, so our designer pays extra attention to please the users and their eyes, too.
Check out some examples below for indicators and for further flat designs visit our portfolio.
Color contrast and outlining applied to indicate the use in both cases.