Over the last year, I’m sure you noticed a fresh new look to your computer’s operating system, and to the websites you visit on a regular basis. A new visual trend is spreading through operating systems like Windows 8 and IOS7, and is making itself seen and felt on websites throughout the internet. Everyone loves clean and simple design.
Flat design has been here for a while, and it is bringing a minimalistic pop art flavor to the web. Flat icons for operating systems and websites are quickly replacing the old naturalist approach to design, and are bringing a bold new statement to the computer and user interface. 2013 is being called the “year of the flat icon”, and it’s time we all got more familiar with this innovative design technique that we can continue to expect a lot more of across websites.
What Is Flat Design?
Flat design is a new style that replaces the old attempts at realism and three dimensional effects in favor of a bold new minimalist look. Flat design emphasizes bright colors, clean and crisp typography, and simple bold user interface touches in buttons and icons. Flat design techniques avoid flashy embellishments like beveling, mock embossing, and faux textures. The flat design approach also tends to steer clear of over using shadows and gradients to produce the once popular, and highly artificial, three dimensional effect. Can you say Photoshop bevel? Those days are in the past for now. The key here is simplicity, with clean lines and bold colors.
So Why Flat Design, and Why Now?
Design trends come and go, and most are driven by aesthetics. In the case of flat design, however, the primary goal is functionality. The way users are interacting with the internet has changed significantly over the last decade, and more and more people are accessing the web through mobile devices. Whether it’s a tablet or an iPhone, people are connecting to the internet while on the move. Design techniques that worked well for a desktop computer are often clumsy and ineffective on a mobile device.
Beyond being a fresh approach to operating system and web design, flat icons simply perform better across a variety of different devices. Just as SEOs and webmasters have begun to optimize their sites for better mobile performance using responsive design, flat design works to make the online experience easier and more productive regardless of the device being used.
Flat Design for Your Website – User Interface Kits
Getting into flat design for your website is relatively easy, and there are a wide variety of user interface kits that make it simple to add flat design elements to any website. The UI kits range from basic free packages to comprehensive design suites with specific licensing options. Most kits include a variety of color palettes to choose from, and allow you to change color schemes with just a few clicks. Basic UI kits include menus, scroll widgets, and simple flat icons. More extensive kits will allow for greater customization, letting you add calendars, charts, progress bars and specific flat design search elements. The following is a very brief sampling of some popular user interface kits.
- Flat UI from Designmodo (free and a beautiful UI)
- Metro UI CSS 2.0 (free – has a Windows 8 look)
- Lil UI Kit by Squid Design ($6 and comes with PSD files)
- Square UI ($39 and offers fast prototyping)
These are basic kits that can get you started adding flat design elements to your websites. Most of these UI kits can be augmented with flat icon packages that can be downloaded and incorporated into your web design. These flat icon packages typically include social media icons, download and upload icons, and PSD icons for a variety of uses. Again, packages range from free basic kits to comprehensive icon sets purchased under license.
Flat design is quickly becoming the norm, and is finding its way onto a variety of operating systems and websites. It has already been adopted for Apple’s new IOS7 and Microsoft’s Windows 8, and flat icons are showing up on large and small websites throughout the internet. Flat design is crisp and modern, clean and colorful, and has real appeal for internet users. If your website is in need of a timely facelift, now is the time to embrace flat design.