Around the time when the Windows 8 is out, the design is moving toward simplicity. In Android, in iOS, in everywhere. A rounded rectangle button with visual cues that it's a button, often changed into a simple 1px rectangle with words inside it that sometimes doesn't resemble button at all at greater size. Don't get me wrong - I like simplicity. But when the simplicity become looks like laziness, that's where the problem is. A too simple design might reduce the visual cues the user need to differentiate between one state and another state. My question is why the design "trends" move toward something that what I think has less usability than the previous? What might caused that? And what actually the advantages of this "overly simple" design has over its precedence?

  • This question contains too many assumptions that are not backed by facts I think.
    – André
    Feb 21, 2014 at 12:43
  • if that's so, please provide me with links to articles and facts that point me otherwise, as an answer. that would be very helpful, and I would be able to select your answer as the correct answer as well. Feb 24, 2014 at 2:24

3 Answers 3


Flat design can have its strength and weakness as highlighted in this article by the Nielsen Norman Group: http://www.nngroup.com/articles/ios-7/

Here are some key points in the article concerning flat design:

Buttons and interface widgets, when present, need to be easily distinguishable from content. They need to have good affordances that invite users to action. In the absence of strong signifiers, they can get ignored, and users may find themselves lost and disoriented.


Back in 2012, when Windows 8 came around, we noted that users had difficulty distinguishing content from chrome: people missed important buttons on the screen because they looked too much like plain text.


...flat design is not necessarily hopeless. 3D is just one of the many cues that can invite users to tap. Other cues are shadows, coloring the links differently (as on the web), or even the placement of those links on the page.


When Apple or Google or Microsoft introduce a new look for their mobile operating system, they are also responsible for design guidelines to help app creators replicate that look. Those guidelines should be robust — it shouldn’t be easy to misinterpret them in a way that makes the designs unusable. Unfortunately, flat design is prone to such misinterpretations.


It was the rise of mobile users that prompted the need for simplicity in the design of websites and applications. The focus moved from slick designs to content. Simple design brought the users' focus back to the content.

However, simplistic design that has lost all affordance is not good design. Perhaps we're at an impasse, where you think something has lost it's affordance and perhaps I think it still has it's affordance. It's opinion based at this point. This could be an excellent subject for an A/B test.

A somewhat relevant A/B test was done recently. This A/B test shows that something with a border 1px border still has affordance.

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I would argue that a simple and a minimalistic interface isn't necessary the same thing. I see it as simple = easy to use, minimalistic = few graphical items. When I, in my daily design work, talk to non designers they often require a simple interface and almost always have a belief that it has to be minimalistic to achieve that.

  • I understand your point, and that's what I would like to point on my question. The lines between simple and minimalistic has gone quite blurry that the UI designer feels that if they want to put the content on spotlight, they had to make their chrome not only simple, but also minimalistic, to the extend of hard to distinguish between controls and contents. Isn't that what the Modern UI and iOS 7 UI talking about? I think they lack of visual cues on which one is actionable (control), which one has no action (content or just label). Feb 21, 2014 at 9:05

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