Talking Point: Flat UI Design

Today, over at CreativeBloq, I stumbled across a design concept for Instagram, if it were to follow the escalating ‘Flat Design’ trend. I’m not entirely sure what to think.

First of all, I hear you asking, what exactly is Flat Design? It’s pretty much the opposite of what Apple does in their stock apps. You won’t find any super-detailed bookshelves, leather or fake paper in flat design. The trend arguably started with Windows Phone and Windows 8, and takes UI (user interface) design right back to basics. This means simple icons and flat colours, with little to no shading. I felt compelled to share my thoughts on this trend, so below are a few examples of flat design, with, in my opinion, varying levels of success.

livetiles

Windows 8

Above is an example of the acclaimed Windows 8 interface, which has totally changed the way PC users interact with their machines.  Many credit Windows 8 as being the UI that kicked off the flat design trend.

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Clockpixels

Blue Weather app

Blue Weather app

Music app

Music app

The above apps include functions for telling the time, reading the weather forecast and making music – and they all follow the flat UI design trend. The clock app is extremely simple and, to me, quite successful in its design; it does what it needs to do and tells the time. The weather app also successfully makes use of the flat design trend, even without much imagery, but I think the most successful in this instance is the last example – the music app. It still has a degree of personality to make it stand out in a market that could soon be full of apps inspired by Windows, thanks to the slightly worn-out gradient and retro monochrome buttons, coupled with a smattering of bright colours. It feels like more than just an app that is following a trend.

WhatsApp Flat Concept

WhatsApp Flat Concept

As I mentioned earlier, there has been an influx of flat design concepts of existing popular iPhone apps. Some have worked more effectively than others. For example, this redesign for WhatsApp, the popular instant messaging app, looks clean and attractive with a trendy rounded typeface, and slightly less messy than its current incarnation, which itself is very much inspired by Apple’s own Messages app – something that has barely changed in six years. Below you’ll also see how an iPhone running on iOS 6 would look if its interface was flat…

iPhone Flat UI Concept by Anton Kovalev

iPhone Flat UI Concept by Anton Kovalev

Part of me likes it, part of me isn’t so sure! However, one thing I am sure about is the flat concept for Instagram – I’m not convinced at all. Many people will prefer this clean look, but to me, it goes against Instagram’s retro nature and ends up looking quite cold and generic, as if Windows themselves had produced it. It definitely isn’t recognisable in the way that Instagram currently is – though this is probably more down to the fact that so many people are used to Instagram’s current format and design flavour. As many of us are aware, Facebook own Instagram, and the social networking giant today launched their new logo, which is once again flat. Only the very observant will notice the change, but there is now no shading, and the whole look fits more appropriately with Facebook’s latest collection of UI updates such as the new news feed and timeline features. With this in mind, maybe it won’t be long before Instagram decides to refresh their identity – I personally won’t be convinced if it ends up looking like this, though.

Instagram concept by Shadman Ahmed

Instagram concept by Shadman Ahmed

There are lots of nice examples of the flat design trend; popular new video clip sharing app Vine follows it, as does Timehop and a host of other apps. Some are more successful than others, naturally, but overall it seems like a fresh alternative to the trend set by Apple of imitating physical things. I don’t really favour one over the other, but I think that it is important that designers don’t follow this trend for the sake of it, or everything will end up looking the same – flat can still be developed and used effectively, but I don’t think it should be rolled out to everything at this stage. As I’ve mentioned, it works for Windows 8 and other design concepts have proven it to be a successful option, but I’m far less convinced that it works for apps like Instagram, especially with it looking like it has been created by Windows.

To read more on the Flat design trend, head over to Creative Bloq.