Why You Shouldn’t Use Flat Design

Flat design seems to be all the rage in the design world these days. It’s clean, so perfectly simple, and has a tendency to make use of bright, life-changing colors you never even knew existed.

Once you’ve seen some of the awesome sites inspired by flat design, it won’t be long before you’re dying to try it out yourself. But before you flatten every design you’ve ever created, here’s a few things you should consider.

Just Because it’s Simple Doesn’t Mean it Makes Sense

As a designer or developer, you’re familiar with buttons, text fields, how elements are laid out on a page and how they can be expected to work. You don’t really have to question anything; it just comes naturally to you.

Flat design aims to simplify these elements as much as possible. That means removing drop shadows, using solid colors instead of gradients, and using super minimal icons. For you, that’s not a problem. You have enough knowledge to infer how things work and then appreciate the simplicity; that’s why flat design appeals so much to us as designers.

An example of a flat button vs a dynamic button

But for your users, that simplistic design might actually be extremely confusing. Some people need design clues like drop shadows to know when something can be clicked, when something can be typed into, and generally how to navigate web pages. If you take away those clues, some users might get lost on your page.

So on That Note, Flat Design Isn’t for Everyone

You know your users best, so it’s up to you to decide if they can handle the abstraction that comes with flat design. Are they tech-savvy enough not to get frustrated by it? Or will they be staring at the screen questioning everything they believe about the Internet?

Just because your site looks like a masterpiece doesn’t mean it actually is one. If the usability sucks for your targeted audience, they won’t care how pretty your site is. They’ll just be annoyed by it.

Every website you create should be usable by the intended users, not just you as the designer.

Sometimes, Flat Design Just Isn’t Realistic

Ok, all puns aside, sometimes flat design just isn’t practical for what you need to do. If your icons, design, or page as a whole are really complex, transforming them to flat designs might be terribly difficult to execute well.

Remember those users we were talking about earlier? Try your best to step into their shoes and think about how they’ll perceive your design. If you truly think the design is easy to understand, then I’ll give you the green light. But if flat design is going to make your icons and ideas over-simplified, don’t do it. Stop while you’re ahead, and try a different technique instead.

I’m not saying flat design is always impractical. There are plenty of cases where it works really well (see above link of awesome sites). Just don’t rush into using it just because it’s the cool trend right now.

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