Whether you are an advocate of flat design or skeuomorphic design, you must acknowledge something: these are aesthetics. They depict how something looks. But design is more fundamental. It goes beyond flat vs skeuomorphic, golden ratios, “clean” UI, Pantone colour palette, 960 grids, and so on. Design is a form of problem solving. You can’t be following trends blindly, and adopting a certain aesthetic just because…
It’s difficult for me to show you how to design a compelling experience. It’s very subjective and it depends on what you want to achieve with the product. Does the product solve a problem? If no, then you should focus on coming up with a product that solves a problem or scratches your own itch.
Every design decision should be justified and traced back to the user experience and the goals of the product. For example, use a green colour for the button to show contrast and indicate a positive outcome from clicking the button, not because green is trendy.
Simplifying is not always the answer
Has the user experience been improved from simplifying the new Gmail interface, making it “cleaner” by hiding elements? Apparently not.
Imagine you’re from Mars, and in 2013 you’re visiting Earth for the first time. Someone shows you two iPhones, running different operating systems. Judging by the icons, which of the two would you think is more cool/modern/recent/stunning looking?
What is the purpose of an icon if not to present in a beautiful, detailed, graphical way the functionality of the app? I know what the app is, I can read its title—I just want a beautiful icon to accompany it and make me want to click it. Just because currently there is this trend of “flat design”, it doesn’t mean you have to stick pictograms on backgrounds with eye-popping gradients. That’s just kitch1.
Think about the design aesthetics and how they improve or worsen the user experience. After all, a beautiful, trendy, golden ratio adherent, user interface that is difficult to use and navigate benefits no one.