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How Does Flat Design Damage and Improve Usability?

Flat design began as a reaction to skeuomorphism. A skeuomorph is basically a visual metaphor. Metaphor has been a common and effective way to communicate new ideas by relating them to existing ideas that are likely familiar to an audience.

  • Metaphors help explain complex concepts by connecting the new to the familiar
  • Metaphors add richness to communication by appealing to the senses
  • Metaphors are persuasive and engaging and lead people to take action

If I tell you someone has a broken heart it communicates much more than saying that person is sad and it does so in a more interesting and emotional way. We’ve all been there and know the feeling of a broken heart and everything we’ve ever felt or understood about those events is communicated by the phrase “broken heart” in a way they aren’t with the word sad.

The same thing happens visually. For example we’ve all had experiences with buttons. We’ve been pressing real physical buttons our whole lives.

The screen doesn’t offer physical buttons, but it does offer things that want to be pushed or clicked or tapped. Designing those things to look like a button relates to the familiar and makes the clickable more appealing to our sense of touch. Even if you aren’t familiar with the web, you’d likely recognize the button and know it can be pressed in some way.

via Vanseo Design.