UI as UX, and a few notes on Flat Design

A casual search on design blogs and forums will give you much discussion regarding what UX is, how UX is not UI, how web & application interface embellishments do not make a good user experience, etc. In general I agree with these sentiments, but ever since the push towards flat design has begun, I think it would do good to pay this movement a critical look.

Probably one of the best write-ups and criticisms of this trend can be found on Eli Schiff's website, under a lengthy 5-part series titled Fall of the Designer. Despite its length, I highly encourage you to set aside some time and read through it all. If you have embraced the flat design minimalist movement, or whatever you want to call it, it's likely going to make you angry. Read through it anyway.

I can't elaborate much on what Schiff has already said, but I will echo his sentiments that this movement is very concerting for those of us who work more in the visual and UI design-space. Personally speaking, the trend seems to be running in parallel with the sort of data-driven, no-nonsense philosophy towards measurable-only-results that the ambiguity of things like user psychology, visual design, etc. have no place in (which is arguable).

I think we should beware of developing what are essentially homogeneous web pages and applications that are beginning to look more and more alike by the day. There is a middle ground between complete homogoneity and being so different and unique as to be unrecognizable. I sense that the scale has been tipping in favor of the former too much, and the web is becoming, dare I say, "boring". I understand the pressure in the era of minimum viable products and lean startups that you want something shipped that's functional and usable without getting mired in the details of pixel perfection with the understanding that as a product begins to grow, it should grow into an identity of its own. But ideally, this should happen at the beginning. It is possible!

Now it would be a bit hypocritical for me to mention my apprehension towards this trend without pointing out that my site is, as you can tell, quite minimal. I have few images outside of my projects section to speak of. Those that I do have, mostly in the process area, are flat SVGs that I whipped up rather quickly.

I'm definitely not missing this irony. I should mention I've only begun recently thinking about this, and felt getting my new site up was more important than stopping and going back to the drawing board. We'll see where this site goes in the future. For now, I'm happy with it and the responsive implementation, but as any designer I know would tell themselves on their own projects, I know I can do better.

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