The internet has changed a lot over the last few years, and so has the way we view things online. As such, in this article, we will be taking a look at some of the recent accessibility improvements that Flat Design has brought and helping make the internet that little bit more open and accessible to everyone.
Skeuomorphs are used to emulate colors, textures, shapes and even features of actual objects in real life, and thus can be really helpful for those who are not used to new technologies and prefer simulations of their environment. However, how accurate will it be for people with visual disabilities? Will it really be worth the effort to keep designing this way for them? Well, the counterpart of this option, flat design, has a lot of advantages that can help those with special needs. As flat elements make use of basic shapes such as regular/irregular polygons, they are more recognizable.
At the left, flat design showing squared/rectangular elements and a high contrast in all buttons. The skeuomorphic calculator on the right, showing low contrast and a lot of bevel and shadow effects.
In the image above, the comparison of both flat and skeuomorphic calculators shows the difference between both techniques. Flat design gives less importance to the button itself and enhances the content (in this case, numbers and mathematical functions). On the other hand, skeuomorphic design makes buttons stand out by giving importance to their details, and as such, content may be lost due to low contrast.
The above example shows how flat design (complemented with certain other items that we shall discuss later) improves and gives more importance to content and can prove useful for the visually impaired readers.
Huge Typography, and Simple Icons
Not just in flat design, but in minimalism as well, huge typography has been taking the lead. Fonts can help put the focus on content and as a result are one of the most important components of the design process. The current trends in design include usage of huge typography with high contrast, clear font faces and balanced paragraphs – basically, bringing printed typography basics to the web. These principles have improved legibility and readability, scoring another point on the accessibility scale. After all, it is a well known fact that a higher contrast with clear font faces can improve accessibility features.
The common denominator here is the use of big and clear typography in high contrast colors to improve readability.
Moreover, clear and big typography can be used inside basic elements to create web and UI buttons with strong contrast in order to help users easily identify the functionality of a given element and differentiate it from the others. Speaking of elements, such flat elements have become really important in the design process as they help in giving personality and strength to the flat design stream, thereby contributing towards a better appearance, visibility and clearness of all the buttons and interface elements.
Basic shapes, solid colors and simple icons make part of this nice theme for iPhone which shows the best of flat UI elements.
Solid and High Contrast Color
So far, we have talked about high contrast colors when applying typography and icons to basic elements. Now, let us get into detailed aspects of the same. The usage of high contrast colors in web design is not a new concept. In fact, for many years, high contrast colors have been used to lend a better visibility to certain key elements of web design.
The internet has many amazing tutorials and tools to help you create accurate combinations of colors. For example, Color Scheme Designer shows you palettes of single, complementary, triads, tetrads and analogic colors, and helps you get a better idea about how certain colors interact with some others.
Color Scheme Designer, a great tool to see color behavior when combined, and use the results as a reference when creating flat designs with contrasting colors.
Also, contrast may be applied to some other aspects different than color itself, such as shapes, distributions, font weights, heights, strokes and textures. In fact, playing with all these elements and their corresponding contrast can improve the appearance of your design and also help you make the design more accessible for people with reduced vision.
Examples of Contrasting Websites with Desaturation
Here are some examples of contrasting websites with desaturation and, in some cases, negative inverted, showing how beautiful design is naturally compatible with usability and accessibility concepts.
bigtop.it. With big typography and elements, soft contrasts between warm and mild cold colors. Nice to the sight and effective at elements definition by their contrast.
aaugh.it takes advantage of simplicity given by minimalism and creates a moderately strong contrast.
cheesesurvivalkit.com has a beautiful triad of gray, white and red, which provides a strong contrast that improves readability and elements definition.
A simple design, using mainly typography and flat icons, is used at metaphiziks.com working perfectly to improve content display.
Symb.ly is a high contrast site with a minimal style that lets you focus on content.
Odopod.com shows a beautiful mild contrast using pink, white and photographs in high format. When looking at the grayscale version, every element is fully identifiable.
Basic diagonal areas, and an accurately contrasted triad makes unfold.no a site with elegant and simple design and clear content.