Is flat design damaging usability?

As part of our season of podcast episodes on debates within the web design community, I want to look the impact flat design is having on usability.

I have a confession to make. I am obviously not fashionable. I know, its shocking isn’t it!

Obviously my fashion sense is perfect, so what can I possibly mean? Well, I am not fashionable, because I am not convinced by flat design.

iOS6 lock screen compared to iOS7 flat design
Has flat design damaged the usability of websites and applications?

Many websites and applications have so completely rejected skeuomorphism, that they now lack the visual cues that enable people to see at a glance what they are meant to do. I have therefore decided to propose the following debate topic for the podcast…

This house proposes that the current trend towards flat design is damaging the usability and intuitiveness of many websites and applications.

The question is do you agree with me? Have we gone too far with flat design and our rejection of skeuomorphism? Do users still need visual cues or is skeuomorphism just patronising? As always, I look forward to reading your comments.

I have something to say!

  • richarddale

    I definitely think mobile sites have their place. Many of the sites I built prior to RWD, static sites that view great on desktop and tablet. Its only when you get down to smart phone size that things start to break down. For many of these sites a mobile specific site would probably work better than a RWD site where I could be more focused and target the medium specifically.

    I did a RWD e-commerce website recently and although the end results were good, trying to get the shopping basket working and looking correct whilst being responsive was a nightmare and I couldn’t help but think that a mobile specific site would have been a better solution. When I browse the web using my iPad Air I never visit a fix width website and think this is a poor user experience why don’t they have a RWD site. I ony ever think this when on my iPhone.

  • sanedevil

    I am not a web designer, but have a team that is building one for me. So in trad way, I have to have a “web designer” design the site in Photoshop which is then handed to “web developer” to generate code.

    You can imagine there are several problems w this – time, costs, rework, code doesn’t do what the design shows etc.

    I hit upon your blog while thinking if there are tools that would eliminate the design-to-code step

    I very much agree w the house and would love to know the process and tools to help achieve this.

  • David R

    The simple answer is yes, a website must be responsive and also Google is focusing more on responsive websites, a static design
    web development firm still works OK in most cases when you have separate mobile friendly website.