Pixel imperfect

by Oct 20, 2013
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The flat UI trend has recently been a dispute for nearly everyone with a smartphone. While the user experience didn’t change much, the visual appearance of iOS 7 led to a heated debate – everyone had an opinion. Only due to flat UI being forced into their hands did iPhone users really begin to notice how design affects what they see digitally.

The battle of skeuomorphism (aka realism) vs. flat UI six months ago resulted in flat icons and simple design being victorious. But why?

As our handheld screens are overwhelmed with information and data, it’s too much to expect realistic designs of stocks and shares, news or updates. A flat UI allows us to interpret all this information with ease and without clutter. We’re moving beyond the gimmick of realistic microphones for voice memos and leather-look calendars, instead concentrating on using them as applications. We are now so used to interacting with devices, buttons don’t have to pop out for us to know they’re there; we’re able to explore a flat interface and remember how to use it.

However, the simplicity of flat UI may seem too simple. It’s a pauper’s interface, compared with the luxury hand crafted realistic interface that skeuomorphism brought. But consider this – “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”- Mark Twain. Designing something useful and informative is easy with skeuomorphism – it can be recognised instantly due to its realism. Flat UI is meant to be subtly simple but deliver the same message.

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It is visually stripped down to its bare bones and yet it is still easy to use, recognisable, and intuitive, but more importantly it is considered. All elements, including colour, texture, shape and even shadow are only added to aid the experience.

Designers are bringing warmth to flat UI by balancing it with skeuomorphism in a new form – not for realism, but instead to add personality and feeling.

Take, for example, iPhone notes. At first glance the design seems plain, but look closely and you’ll see a paper background and a slight emboss effect on the text. This nod to skeuomorphism brings a comforting view that doesn’t strain the eye, but also doesn’t adorn it, so you are now absorbed by what you’re typing.

In my opinion, flat UI allows us to do more, easily and intuitively, while seeing less. Is that such a bad thing?

Words by Guest Spot Workmate: Firuze French – @Firuze

[Images courtesy of Google on Behance]

About Firuze French

Firuze is headstrong but a fan of cute things. Although she’s a minimalist on the outside, she’s overly technical on the inside. As a design consultant, Firuze is always on hand to offer advice on creative and tech trends. She’s a London lover but New York dreamer who loves city life. Firuze considers herself an interior designer in training, DIY hobbyist and a lover of Michelin star dining for a bargain price.