The history and tendencies of flat design development

Flat design, thanks to the big companies that started to use this approach several years ago, has forced its way into our life quite abruptly and unexpectedly for many. However, actually, this trend had existed before and developed together with realism and skeuomorphism. It came in web technologies from printing products of the 20th century, precisely there they actively used distinctive flat elements and simplified graphics coming up to symbolism. Let us find out how it all started.

Skeuomorphism provides a user-friendly interface to inexperienced users

With appearance of the first Windows versions and increase of the number of Internet users, website and application design was becoming ever more realistic. Skeuomorphism, which is creation of buttons and other control elements as maximally close to reality, was actively developing. Designers were drawing shadows and 3D volume, trying to make buttons look so real that most inexperienced users would guess to click on them.

Time passed. Beautiful, three-dimensional designs became ever more resource-intensive, clumsy and unmanageable. The perception of design was changed when, on the one hand, the mass user became more experienced and the need in graphical euphemisms began to disappear. On the other hand, an ever larger number of people began to use the Internet on mobile devices and here the loading simplicity and speed turned out to be much more important than shadows, volume and other decorations.

Flat design – modern solution

Today flat design is a concept, which resolves a majority of problems and defines a vector of development of graphical interfaces for years in advance. This concept let us:

  • Reduce the resource intensity of applications and web resources;
  • Shift website users’ attention from design to content;
  • Create user-friendly responsive websites with a common design for desktop computers and mobile devices.

Such a specific revolution that began in 2010 forced a huge number of companies to make a fast redesign of their websites and applications and completely changed the appearance of modern devices. Flat design itself is constantly evolving and developing, ever more user-friendly and attractive solutions are created. Seemingly, precisely flat design will determine the way of development of interfaces for years in advance.

How it all began

The first elements and attempts to realize “flat” ideas can be seen already in the beginning of 2000s. While mass users dealt with three-dimensional design, skeuomorphism and realism, some companies already tried to use simplified elements. But “flat” tendencies came to the peak with creation of the first fully functional interfaces of the Metro style.

For the first time flat elements were introduced to the mass user in 2006 when the MP3 Zune Player was released by the Microsoft company. In that time, the player’s appearance caused a whole wave of criticism.  However, in 2010, there appears a new Windows Phone 7 product, whose design consists of flat elements, too.

The Metro style combines bright large shapes, symbolism coming up to grotesque, focus on typo-graphics and total absence of chamfers, shadows, and other similar design elements, so popular in former years. Despite the criticism, this approach became so popular that the company decided to transfer it on personal computers and created the Windows 8 interface exactly in this style.

On the one hand, Microsoft Windows 8 turned out to be not a very successful product, on the other hand, many other companies started to use flat interfaces as well. Longest of all they “resisted” new trends in Apple – till the last breath they declared they did not plan to stop using skeuomorphism, but by 2013, the new iOS 7 system has also become flat.

From interfaces to web design

Following the new trend in interface development, webmasters began to use flat elements ever more actively, too. As it turned out, modern users do not need so many hints like before, they can already understand symbolic flat interfaces in applications as well as on web pages. Trading companies took it with big enthusiasm that now they could focus the user’s attention not on the “header” and “three-dimensional” menu, but on the content.

Besides, in responsive design, a flat style turned out to be a real asset. Getting rid of resource-intensive buttons and other control elements, we could accelerate website loading speed on all devices without loss of quality of really important elements, images of products, pictures, etc.

Various companies began to simplify the design of their websites, following the world brands’ practice, and today almost all web pages are “flat”. On the other hand, the heavy three-dimensional websites did not disappear at all, today this design is called “rich” and is used when necessary. For example, if for some purpose you need to create a beautiful presentation, then realistic images and “rich” control elements are the best solution. Besides, without three-dimensional solutions, you cannot create a browser multiuser game to be played on desktop computers. But today “rich” design solutions are used only where it is really necessary.

Perspectives of flat design development

It’s quite hard to guess what will be created in the near future, because new ideas appear almost every day, and web design is not an exclusion. But now we can say for sure that flat design not only did not exhaust its potential, but its potential is hardly discovered.

Websites with flat design, as practice shows, more seldom need to be redesigned and require big updates, fashion for flat elements is still there, too, and, most probably, it will be relevant for still a long time. Resource economy and responsive design will be highly appreciated for a long time as well.

We can see some tendencies in flat design development, for example, the Google company actively experiments, trying to bring together the best of the different styles – flat design and skeuomorphism, and some of their developments have already attracted various specialists’ attention.

Today you can automatically convert your flat design to the website, which will be maximally economical and convenient for realization of your project


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