What Is Flat Web Design?


Good morning internet fans. It’s Ryan Perry. Simple Biz Support. Today is Thursday, July 16th. Therefore it is Internet Marketing Thursday. As usual I have the lovely and talented, Virginie Dorn, the CEO of Business Website Center. Good morning Virginie.

Virginie Dorn: Good morning Ryan. How are you today?

RP: I’m doing good. Thank you very much. It is a beautiful day in Sonoma county. Off air, we were talking about some of the local beaches. I found a hidden gem that I can’t share publicly, otherwise it won’t be a hidden gem anymore. But it’s pretty cool to know that there are some place you can go in Sonoma County when it’s busy that hopefully won’t be busy, ’cause it’s a hidden gem.

VD: Yeah. It’s a beautiful place to live in. I know many people that watch us are very envious of us living here in the wine country, so close to the Pacific Ocean, and the Sierras. We really… One of the best location on earth.

RP: Yes. Very fortunate. And I think that’s what’s inspires great web design. Right?

VD: Absolutely.

RP: Speaking of web design, we’re going to talk about flat design which became popular about a year ago, maybe a little over a year, still working pretty strong. So what exactly is a flat design website?

VD: It’s become very popular last year, just as you mentioned. But it’s been on for a little bit longer than that. It’s really a minimal approach to web design. Just making everything very minimal, very clean, very efficient, very right to the point. So it is succinct, not just in the text, but also the font, and the color scheme. Just think of it as a… It’s almost like retro. Disco colors, bold colors, very sharp, they use shadowing but just a little bit of it to create a 3D aspect to the design. But again, it’s meant to be very minimal in it’s appearance, therefore giving your message a better chance to be understood clearly and right away.

RP: Or actually heard in the first place. Website design was getting pretty crazy for awhile. Just with all the different movements, and you get the parallax type of stuff, and we’ve got videos playing behind this. And I think website design kind of swung, the pendulum swung, to kind of wild and crazy for a little while, and the minimalist design it sounds like is really coming back and just focusing on the message.

VD: Yes. And very streamline less fluff. So having less fluff means, again, more orderly aspect. It’s again, clearer, modern and efficient way to communicate digitally. So just as you said, along the years code has become so advance. We can pretty much do anything now. So the tendency was like, “Well, if I can’t do it in code, I’m just going to add it to the website.” And it just became overwhelming to the senses for most web visitors. So we just went too far, and now we’re going back to something again, a little bit more minimal. It’s still very elegant and pleasing to the eye. But again right to the point, and that’s what’s called flat design. And today I’ll be sharing some screens to give our audience a better understanding of what flat design is.

RP: Okay. What I love about it is the fact that we’re really going back to the user experience, then… A lot of smaller companies you work with a web designer, and typically a web designer, a good web designer should be more on the artsy side. And so typically, they’re going to want something that is beautiful, that’s cutting edge a lot of times, when the focus really needs to be on the end user. And that’s where having somebody who’s overall responsible for a company’s marketing direction and focus can really come in and go “Okay. Hey, web designer, that looks beautiful and all, but we’re losing focus on the message.” And that ultimately should be the goal of the website is “Deliver the message in a way that the consumer can digest it easily, so that they take action.”

VD: Yes, indeed. And it doesn’t by… Just… By the way you mentioned it. But it doesn’t have to be sterile. Just by having less fluffs, and more focus on the modern, minimalist, and efficient web design, it doesn’t have to be sterile. On the contrary, by simplifying and streamlining the design, the website has more of what’s important to you and your business. So for instance, there’s a better focus on the feel of the pages, which is the feeling you wish people to have when they visit your site, whatever it might be for your business or industry. Another thing would be the clarity of the message you and I just mentioned. Less stuff means a clear organization of each page for both the text and the visual element. And finally the emphasis on the call to action. Again, by having more breathing room for all of your pages, you have more space and focus on your important calls to action. So those here… This is Apple computer, a different website. I’m just going to quickly go side by side. You see they’re all very different, but this is all flat design. Very modern, almost angular, but it does not have to be. But typically that’s what they are. You can see the sharp corner here. This one is using hexagon. I believe that’s called. This is all Flat design. Very easy to get to where you need to go. Focus for iPhone here is on the phone itself. Even the words are very succinct.

RP: Yeah and when you look at the iPhone page I think iPhone… It’s Apple so typically they’re going to do the best job. And one of the things I think Apple does that a lot of… I should say most large corporations do, that a lot of small business don’t do, is actually ask their clients “Why are you doing business with us?” So as an example with the iPhone, there are hundreds of features on that iPhone however they’re only listing three or four key features at the top. If you know what’s most important to your audience, those are the features or the benefits that you want to list and that’s it. I think a lot of times small business owners are, “Oh, but I do this. Oh, but I do this.”

RP: I was just talking to a guy today who’s all, “I’m doing a lot of business over here but residential is still important to me.” Even though its 5% of his business, emotionally he’s attached to that and at some point we need to be a little black and white. And we need to really just focus on “Okay, but what is the core part of your business?” Understanding who that audience is, what’s most important to them. And that’s really the only message that we need to deliver because that’s what’s going to resonate with them the quickest and fastest so that they want to continue on. I think what is it, it’s less than eight seconds now is our attention span of the average person?

VD: Possibly less. To do what you just described it’s truly succinct copywriting and crowded text that speaks frankly and right to the point without being abrupt. So there’s a fine balance. So as you can see iPhone 6 as you mentioned it, if it only mentioned just three of the many, many features that phone has, but as you mentioned again they did some survey and realized that those are the thing people wanted to see the most. In addition to the succinct copywriting you want to pick a simple typography, which is the style of the font you’re going to be using. You want the font to be easy to read, regardless of the device used to view a website. IPhone, very clean sans serif, we mentioned, this is not an ornate font, it’s very modern and straight. Easy to read, regardless of if you have a big screen or a tiny smartphone.

VD: And then, the most important element of flat design is the color scheme. We call it Flat Color Scheme, which are typically solid colors and often times they’re very bold and vibrant colors without texture or pattern. And now, they’re using a turquoise and an orange here. Here you can see black, red, grey. Here orange, blue, as you can see they’re very bold. Even purple, you can really get away with very bold colors but in none of them do you see any texture. The “Golden Tweet” is in an orange box. You don’t see any grooving to the orange box, you just see a plain orange which is very easy to go to.

VD: Simple design element, again everything is very simple nothing too crazy and sometimes they use shadowing. Let me see if I can find a good one. You see the shadowing here behind that font? It gives you almost the 3D effect, but there’s nothing 3D about this web page. It’s just an illusion. So shadowing is also part of flat design. So are the ghost buttons, so this is a ghost button. And by having less stuff in the page, you can see the “Try It Now” in that bold orange button. You can see it very well, it’s right there in your face, you can’t miss it.

RP: Yeah and I think that’s really important. One of the things that I try to emphasize with clients is that your website, not only is it a marketing piece but there’s also the flow of the website that you need to think about. And I always think about it as a rat maze. You put a rat at the beginning of the maze, and it’s up to the rat to find the center in order to get the prize. Well the more difficult that maze is, the more difficult and less likelihood that the rat is actually going to make it into the center of the maze by cleaning up things and making it very clear to users that, “Here you’ve got three options or four options to choose when you come to this website.” And when they click on that, then obviously they should get more information about that page but you might give them another one or two options to again clearly define what it is that they’re looking for plus you want to have an end goal. Does it lead to a phone call? Does it lead to a sale? Does it lead to a sign up? There needs to be some flow through the page and if you hide all of that, and you make it difficult for people to figure out what the next step is to find information, you’re just hindering yourself and you’re limiting conversion at that point.

VD: Yes. Good flat design can absolutely increase your conversion rate. Again by making it clear to what you want them to do. But just again as you said you have to have a thought process behind it. So before you go and say, “I want flat design for my brand new website.” What’s the ultimate goal of each page on your site? Is it the contact form, newsletter sign up, whatever it might be, you have to know what that goal is, then you design it accordingly. So the overall design is very minimal, you reduce the number of web elements on each page, and that means the design is uncluttered and orderly. So it’s just is simply more efficient, more clear.

RP: Go ahead.

VD: I was playing a little button from Google Hangout. So it is not a complicated process, but in order to do it well it can be intricate. So, you definitely want to use a web designer and understand what flat design is. If it’s appropriate for you though it is appropriate for most industry. It can work regardless of your business type. It could even work for non-profit. It’s just again it brings clarity and efficiency to your website and makes it stand alone apart from your competitors. Flat design is even though it might not be your your style as a site owner it’s very much the style of internet users nowadays and the expectations they have and the type of designs they love.

RP: Yeah and it really should be about the end user not yourself personally, I mean ultimately you want to put some of that personal flare in. And I think one of the problems that we have as small business owners is, this is our baby so we’re very much emotionally tied to it and everything needs to be perfect. It needs to represent us and as companies get larger and you have layers of management and people, they get more pragmatic about, “Okay, we need something that the consumer is going to enjoy, that the consumer is going to relate to, so that the consumer actually again takes action.” And ultimately as business owners, that’s what our end goal should be assuming that we want to make money.

VD: Yes, I think you had it right. For a lot of business owners it’s almost like a baby to them. They need to change their way of thinking and think of their website as a very powerful marketing tool. And if you think of it as a tool, almost like putting an ad on the billboard or on TV. What’s the end result? How do I make it, make money for myself, my company and my employees? It’s not really a baby, it is a marketing tool. Flat design, fabulous way of designing a website. Very powerful, very clear, very efficient. Something I will recommend to people but not everybody is ready for it in terms of site owners.

RP: Alright, perfect. Well with that, that is the end of the show on flat design, web design. If you want more information feel free to give Virginie a call at:

VD: Oh, 707-794-9999 and remember we’re in California so it is Pacific Standard Time.

RP: Yeah, so that means if you are on the East Coast feel free to call at 5.00 AM your time ’cause that’s what 2.00 AM our time or something like that. So it would be perfect. With that Virginie as always I appreciate the time and energy that you put into the show. Looking forward to talking to you next week, same computer, same time.

VD: Take care.


About the Author:

Ryan Perry is the founder and CEO of Simple Biz Support, Inc. Ryan started video blogging in 2009 as an alternative to written blogs to create visibility and credibility online. During the workweek, he enjoys helping small business owners harness the power of video to grow their companies. On the weekends, he enjoys hiking and searching out waterfalls throughout the state of California.

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