What is Flat Design?
Flat design is just as it sounds. It is a design that utilizes a plain look and feel to not distract the user from the main focus of the site (the content). Flat design does not involve an excess use of colors or commonly used design techniques like gradients and shadows. In this article I will be focusing more on flat design in regard to website layouts and why it is important.
How Did it Get Started?
Flat design has become more important lately with the growing importance placed on content. The interesting thing though is that content has always been important, it is just now that people are beginning to understanding this. This concept of content being the most important thing has been accelerated with Google's Hummingbird Algorithm update among many others. Search engines are now beginning to think more like humans and less like machines which would just deal with individual keywords and try to make sense out of them.
Google is now able to take what the user types in, understand it as a phrase instead of separate keywords, and from that select the content that best represents what the user is looking for. While this does not entirely mean much to the end-user, it has entirely changed the game for web designers/developers and how SEO is dealt with.
What Constitutes Good Content?
Developing content for your website is now more of an art than ever. Content creators are now very important positions at any serious SEO company and it's here to stay. It's no longer about stuffing as many keywords into your website as possible to show up on Google, but instead it's about creating interesting and creative content. If you are selling a product on your website, say for example a lip balm, how are you going to produce good content that will allow people to find you on Google search results?
You have to think about what people might search for when looking for ChapStick. In addition to that, what might they refer to it as? Notice how I first described it as lip balm, and then later as ChapStick? You probably did not even notice the difference between the two, just as people often mistake facial tissues with Kleenex. One is the product, and the other is a coined brand name that many use interchangeably. While this is a difficult example to use as there could be some legal ramifications when using a trademarked name when selling your product, the exercise is meant simply to get you thinking.
There are often many different words used to describe a product or type of service. So in order to appeal to the largest audience possible, use different words interchangeably, but make them flow. If you are able to notice that you are keyword stuffing when reading through your content, then that is bad content. Be subtle in the way that you bring up different terms to describe your product or service. Make it flow so the user does not even realize that they are using different terms to describe the same exact thing when reading. And that's where interesting content comes into play.
Creating Engaging Content
Do you have something interesting or useful to share with your audience? If not, then why should Google and other search engines recommend your website to your target market? It is not that complicated. If your articles are being shared across social media and you have inbound links from trusted sources, then Google knows you have interesting content. Don't ever just write something to simply fill the page with words, this will not help. Write something that can in some way benefit your audience. You are an expert in your field of work, so share your knowledge with others. The best content will rise to the top and if you manage to use interchangeable terms within the interesting content as mentioned previously, Google will have no option but to recommend your website to those searching.
Flat Design and Content
Everything comes down to this - the whole meaning behind this post. Thus far we have determined that good content is what we need to rise to the top, but what does that have to do with flat design? The answer is simple. You should be focusing your efforts on making the content the most important thing on the page, because quite frankly, it is just that. Using gracious amounts of whitespace paired with beautiful typography is what should keep the user on your page. They should not be distracted by gradients or other complex visuals. The words on the page should be the first thing that draws the user's attention and the engaging content should be what keeps them there.
It's all about making what matters most easily accessible. There is also a beautiful simplicity to clean flat design. A website does not need complexity to be engaging and cause conversion rates to increase. If done properly, flat design is a much better approach to web design and can greatly improve the future of the web.