Flat design, UX and the future of digital products
Screen from http://designmodo.com/square-free/
If we're calling websites and Apps products, then shouldn't the user experience become as refined as the world of hardware products? Think about when you bought your last Apple product, especially if it was an iPhone or iPod. Those taut little packages, without a milligram of excess material, clinging to the product itself, which is of course a testament to design savvy in its own right. With product packaging (and products themselves) as well-thought out as Apple's, it's no wonder un-boxing videos are so popular on YouTube.
So, shouldn't the customer's first visit to your brands website be a bit like an "unboxing" experience, teeming with excitement, ooh's and aah's, and all? We think it should; we think the user experience (UX) is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to great design.
And here's what that means, as of right now.
A familiar motif
A recent article at Smashing Magazine underscores the value of a cohesive motif in digital product design. As that article points out, motif is often found in art and especially music (ever heard Pink Floyd’s The Wall? It's interspersed with repeating musical patterns and lyrical themes that make it unmistakable, even upon a cursory listen - a brilliant example of musical motif). In design, these means finding a singular theme on which to build everything else, and using that single idea as a touch point to return to.
Think of Disney, an American brand that is completely thorough in terms of motif. If you visit the Disney World, in Orlando, Florida USA, you'll be treated to Mickey Mouse-shaped doorknobs, parking lots, cookies, mouse pads, and dinner tables. In the digital space, you might not have the intellectual rights to an iconic anthropomorphic mouse, but you can still expand the concept of "theme" into that of "motif," with similar effects.
Flatness is awesome
Flat design is in, has been in, and will remain in for the foreseeable future.
After decades of so-called skeuomorphic design, where screen elements were expected to mimic the look of hardware equivalents, designers have recently broken with tradition. See also: Windows 8 and iOS7, notable abandoners of the "real look and feel" approach. Rather than investing time and effort into fancy graphical elements, designers have shifted to focusing on the UX, making it easy for the user to access features and get the most out of the digital product.
Flat designs dodge the phony knobs, switches, bells, and whistles that formerly bloated web pages (and made them harder to load on mobile devices, too). Now, smart web design hinges on the efficient delivery of not only the content, but the message. And flat design is here and holding on.
But never boring…
Flat doesn't mean boring, though.
Concepts like "motif" and "flat" design don’t have to be the end of the creative process with web design. Modern designs, though minimal, don't have to be boring. It's all in how you use the parameters in place (flat design considerations) and break outside the box. We found a cool list of flat, but totally original, designs over at Web Designer Depot that is worth a look for some examples of not letting the current flat trend add up to total blandness.
2013 has definitely been the year for flat design, and it's sure to continue. But design in digital, as is the case with fashion, is always changing.
Where do you see digital product design heading in the near future? Where will we be by this time in 2014?