The death of flat design
Bootstrap 3 RC1 was released today. And all of its included components are flat. The designer in me is happy: now more people can ditch old design trends and focus on making their apps look clean and flat. But, the design hipster in me is appalled: now every other novice web developer is going to start using flat design in their websites and web apps, because of Bootstrap. Flat design is becoming mainstream. With Bootstrap, all of the new web developers and people learning web design for the first time will instantly be able to make their sites flat. The result of this in my opinion is going to be a massive influx of flat sites. And that’s going to take away a lot of the charm that flat design has. Of course, I’m not blaming Bootstrap; Bootstrap is an amazing tool, and I personally loved using it when I was starting out in my web development career.
Flat design will go the way visual realism in skeuomorphic design went.
A lot of people ask me questions like: what’s the next flat design? Where is flat design headed? How long will flat design be regarded as something modern? Just as the way reflective buttons and pseudo-3D interfaces are dying out, flat design too will become outdated. It’s inevitable, of course, and I believe the charm of most design trends is highest when they’re something new. When Apple released the first iPhone, the skeuomorphic, visually realistic design it sported was revolutionary — people had never seen page-flipping animations and such realism in apps, like the calculator which looked just like its physical counterpart. At the time, that design was something new, and people fell in love with it.
That’s a reason why a lot of people today think flat design looks refreshing. After staring at rounded buttons and shadows and gradients for years, people now fell in love with the simplicity and to-the-point nature of flat design. It was a fresh new take on design, and was welcomed by almost everyone (except Apple’s Scott Forstall, but let’s not get into that here). Though I can’t say flat design is inherently better than visual realism, I can say that people like some change once in a while. But now that flat design’s becoming more and more ubiquitous, people will want to use something new.
I believe that the next major design trend will be content-focused minimalistic design. A really good example of this is in fact the very site you’re using right now: Medium. I believe that a lot of Medium’s appeal comes from the fact that it has a no-bullshit design language, and all of the reader’s focus is on the content. The content itself is displayed in such a way as to optimize consumption, and reduce any friction in getting the content from the site to the user. And that is one of the reasons this site is getting so popular. There really isn’t anything that distracts you from the content. And that, I believe, is key. Rather than having pretty-looking leather details or even square boxes of color meant to represent controls, design’s focus should be on the content itself. Another key player in this is typography. Typography in design has really gone up in terms of performance, and people are really beginning to see how big of a role good typography plays.
The bottom line: design is stripping away the elements that we all have grown tired of, until the most important thing is left: the content.
Overall, design trends are always changing. One design trend gets old and has to be replaced by a new one. People will always get tired with certain trends, and those things will have to keep changing to stay current. It’s hard to predict what the next big thing is going to be, but you’ll always know that whatever you’re building right now will get old eventually:
Timeless design is hard to come by in the world of the web.
I’m not a full-time designer, so some people may not agree with all of this post.
If you want to hear more from me, follow me on Twitter: @danishamughal