Have you ever bonked your head on a glass door because you had no clue how to open the door–because the architects decided to make the design “clean” by getting rid of anything that ruined the clean lines of the door?
Yeah, that’s our modern UI environment.
I promise you this is a picture of a door. Do you see how to open it?
I mean, look at the examples provided here.
First, let’s dispense with the stupid items listed as “features of flat design”. They list, amongst the supposed advantages of a flat design “functionality”, “close attention to details” and “clear and strict visual hierarchy”–because before the invention of flat design, none of us wanted to deliver functionality, and most of us slopped our user designs together in the same way we slop pigs. (*eye roll*)
And let’s look at the supposed “advantages”: “simplicity of shapes and elements”, “minimalism” and “avoiding textures, gradients and complex forms.”
Which suggests to me the problem with the photo of my door above is that it contains a complex shape and unclear hierarchy which distracts from the functionality of the door.
Here. Let me fix that.
I know the difference is subtle, but to the purist, makes the door much better looking. No more distractions from the pure essence of a door, one that has a single unitary shape, a minimalist door free of visual distractions.
Right up until you face-plant yourself because you can’t open the god-damned thing.
I mean, look at the animated example they give:
Setting aside the cute (and distracting animation of the weather icon to the side), how does the user know that by tapping and dragging he expands and shrinks a region? How does he know that it doesn’t scroll the page instead? Or that tapping (instead of swiping) would expand or shrink an area? Or that tapping instead pulls up an hourly prediction?
How does he know that swiping left and right gives the previous and next day’s weather prediction?
And notice the design is not entirely free from complex shapes. The two icons in the upper right? Is that two separate buttons, or a single toggle (as the shading suggests)?
Or notice the location in the Ukraine. Is the location tappable? Can we pick a new location?
The key here is that the user does not have a fucking clue. And let’s be honest: there is no delight in a “discovery” which seems more designed to make the user feel like a stupid idiot.
I’m not going to even address the complex and superfluous animations which, while cute, and may even be demanded in some markets, exist only to say how great the application is, but provide absolutely no aid to user comprehension.
Look, I’m not asking for buttons and checkboxes and the like.
It’s not like you have to beat your users over the head; you can have clean lines and still use affordances which subtly guide the user on how to use your application. Just create a consistent visual language so that, for example, all shapes with a small dot in the corner can be resized by dragging.
But I am suggesting if the user needs to spend time figuring out how to open the door, they’re less likely to go through the door.
And you lose users. And revenue.