Mon, 10 Jun 2013 Usability, Not 'Flat' Design, Key To Monday's iOS Refresh

Greg Keizer | Macworld | June 10, 2013

14-year veteran of Apple UI/UX design calls flat a fad

Apple is expected to debut a revamped iOS on Monday, featuring a "flatter" design that, if not done properly, could be a step backward in usability, a pair of user interface (UI) experts said.

"Totally flat design, like in Windows 8, is a terrible usability mistake because it removes the users' ability to see at a glance where they can click," said Jakob Nielsen, a usability guru with nearly 80 U.S. patents to his name. Nielsen, co-founder of the consulting firm Nielsen Norman Group, was formerly a top-level engineer with Sun Microsystems and has a Ph.D in human-computer interaction. "The actionable elements on the screen have to be called out in some way."

Although designers may argue over what "flat" means, the consensus seems to be a reduction in the three-dimensionality of icons and other actionable elements -- buttons, for example -- that make them stand out from the background. Instead, colors, textures and typography are used to draw attention.