Perhaps the most common web design trend right now is the use of flat web design.
Inspired by the Bauhaus movement, imagined by Walter Gropius in the early 20th century and the Swiss design movement that subsequently followed, modern flat web design is pure and simplistic offering many benefits to web designers today that go well beyond its stylistic beauty. Flat website design by nature, is a challenging design theory and practice to grasp for many web designers as creating a minimalist web interface design takes a fair bit of experience and restraint.
I have nearly 15 years as a professional web designer at Toronto’s Parachute Design, and in that time I have challenged myself to better understand flat web design and what it offers viewers, in order to better educate and advise my clients when approaching their new website design project.
Benefits of Flat Web Design
Smaller File Sizes Improve Website Speed
The nature of flat web design offers us simplistic shapes and graphics that are typically solid colours or make use of subtle gradients. This web design style also uses subtle shading or colour blocking to create a third dimension when necessary, eliminating the need to use the “out of the box” Photoshop effects that plague so many website designs. Because modern flat web design uses simpler graphics, the file size can be dramatically reduced, offering a very notable website speed boost in most cases. This tends to optimize website performance and can directly attribute to improved search engine rankings as Google considers the page load speed of your website when determining its rank.
If you’re interested in why this is such a key ranking factor and how this works, check out our article on Website Speed and Performance Optimization.
Flat Web Design Enhances Responsive Web Design
Without question responsive web design is fantastic and here to stay. The use of flat web design offers several key enhancements to a responsive website design that can help your website rise above the competition. Flat web design:
Improves Responsiveness – First and foremost is website responsiveness. Typical graphics within a website design would normally be raster-based, which prevents the browser from efficiently resizing or scaling the images. Not only is this an issue when scaling down from the desktop experience to a mobile device, but perhaps more so when scaling the image up for Retina or 4K displays. Websites that employ flat web design can often use SVG or scalable vector graphics that can be resized by the browser quickly and efficiently to any size (up or down) without losing any image quality.
Improves Legibility – Another enhancement flat web design has to offer a responsive website design is better legibility. In scenarios where text may be embedded in a graphic that is scaled up or down to fit a different viewport than the original graphic was designed for, the elements within the graphic are naturally sharper offering a more legible interface for viewers.
Improves Page Load Speed – The third most important enhancement that flat web design can offer your responsive website is page load speed. Serving up a website on a mobile network is in many cases still more time consuming than a typical hardwired or Wi-Fi connected environment. By decreasing the image size or even using SVG images, we can reduce the page load speed considerably.
Improving User Experience
All of the points we’ve covered above come together in the end to create a great user experience. Whether we’re measuring the success of the website design by SEO performance or conversions, providing a better user experience that engages your visitors and prompts them to take action (or keep coming back) is the goal. In fact, creating a winning user experience is at the very core of every great web design project that our Toronto web designers undertake. Flat web design may not be everyone’s taste, but with the benefits it has to offer the future of web design and user experience, I’d recommend giving it a try.