Flat Design vs Traditional Design: Comparative Experimental Study

Who could have known? A study from 2015 is making it once again into news. Which is completely alright. Because it teaches us an important lesson.

Since 2 years now I am a regular reader of subreddits like /r/UXdesign and /r/UIdesign and such. For me the Reddit community is the most important source of informations on the web. Especially when it comes to specific content Reddit holds up pretty well. There quite exotic subreddits like /r/powerwasherporn or /r/retrolibrarymusic I enjoy reading on a daily basis. The Reddit design community grows bigger every day and builds the ground for useful information on recent development regarding every aspect around UX/UI Design, Psychology and everything around these topics.

This article shows the results of an experimental comparative study of visual search effectiveness on traditional and flat designs.

Whether you read the paper or not. You probably already know whats up. It’s the many year old discussion about a certain user interface trend that somehow appear, get adopted and widely accepted as the new cool. Everyone hops on the train to Nopeville – just because they don’t know want a better direction. Most importantly they don’t want to fall back. Outdated design is bad design > is bad reputation > is no business.

adopting trends is key

In many cases adopting new trends makes perfectly sense. Trends are normally initiated by big enterprises who have heavily researched on every minor step they do. What could go wrong with that?

The first flatdesign appeared in the mobile OS Windows Phone 7 in 2010. It came to prominencetwo years later with the OS Windows 8 for personal computers. This new approach tothe design of user interfaces was enthusiastically received by the graphic designcommunity as well as by many users, as a result of which it was adopted by two otherleading software vendors, Apple and Google

(PDF) Flat Design vs Traditional Design: Comparative Experimental Study. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281628009_Flat_Design_vs_Traditional_Design_Comparative_Experimental_Study [accessed Jan 02 2019].

What if a trend falls flat (pun intended)

A flat icons search is performed almost twice as slowly as a realistic icons search, and is characterized by a higher cognitive load. Analysis and processing of user interface objects on webpages with flat design takes more time than on traditional websites (calculated per screen area), and is 112 I. Burmistrov et al. accompanied by a significantly higher error rate; the difference in oculomotor activity reflects the specificity of traditional and flat webpage design

(PDF) Flat Design vs Traditional Design: Comparative Experimental Study. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281628009_Flat_Design_vs_Traditional_Design_Comparative_Experimental_Study [accessed Jan 02 2019].

Ouch! This should not be a surprise, though. Experiencing problems with the recognition of certain objects designed in 2D can be a tough challenge for many people.

So.. no trend?

In my opinion Flat Design or Skeuomorphism were both just two trends to levelling off the UI design universe. Failure is a sign of progress. The most important part now is to recognise these trends as what they are: two extremes. Nothing more. The pendulum is about to even out.