• Kyle DeckerKyle Decker, over 2 years ago

    I'm surprised to see so many people reacting so negatively this claim. This research doesn't claim that flat UI is inherently unusable:

    If your designs are already strong, any potential weakness introduced by flat design will be mitigated.

    It does claim, however, that by merit of flat design being flat, there are less signifiers for users to grab onto, and that a lack of strong signifiers can cause users to hesitate. This is certainly true in my experience.

    Think about the old distinction between inputs and buttons—the former had a shadow on the inside, the latter on the outside. This made it evident which was which, without hovering. In flat design, both of these inputs can appear identically, and often do. Popular design systems like Material do away with borders and background altogether, which leads me pretty regularly to question whether or not something is clickable.

    Material buttons

    It isn't that your app will be totally borked without drop shadows or gradients or whatever else. It's that every time you remove a signifier, you subtly increase the amount of mental effort that's required to use your interface. And since cognitive processing and willpower draw from the same pool of resources, you are increasing the likelihood that your users will make poor decisions both inside and outside of your app.

    This isn't something that you can learn yourself out of. As designers, we are probably more skilled at picking out what can be clicked on and what can't, but here are two important truths:

    1. We aren't designing for us, the strongest 5% of computer users. We're designing for the 95%.
    2. Even if we were just designing for us, flat UI still induces subconscious hesitations. Why subject ourselves to that for an aesthetic?

    Design is intent. When you're making a visual change, it pays to know the research.

    36 points
    • Marc EdwardsMarc Edwards, over 2 years ago

      every time you remove a signifier, you subtly increase the amount of mental effort that's required to use your interface.

      Yes × 1,000,000.

      11 points
    • Mattan IngramMattan Ingram, over 2 years ago

      The issue isn't really the claim, the issue is that it was poorly tested in this experiment.

      1 point