A few years ago, 3-D effects and heavily textured elements were all the rage in web design. These design elements were strongly associated with the “Web 2.0” movement. Shadows, bubbly font, rounded corners, and beveled buttons were all the rage. Even prior to the Web 2.0 trend, drop shadows, gradients, and repeating graphic backgrounds were dominant forces in web design.
Like many forms of art, trends in web design tend to move in cycles. In 2013, we’re seeing a shift away from gaudy design elements and a return to clean, flat, minimalistic designs. Typically, these “flat” designs rely heavily on clean typography, high contrast blocks of color, 90 degree corners, and clean lines. Flat design benefits heavily from a “less is more” philosophy where empty space and simplicity is highly valued. This simplicity has more than just aesthetic benefits – flat web design offers a clean user interface that allows visitors to browse without distraction. Its more than a design trend – it also makes good sense from a usability perspective.
Many point to Microsoft’s heavy use of the minimalistic “metro” style in Windows 8 as the spark for this trend towards flat design. Despite their history in recent years of being behind the curve – especially compared to their rival Apple – many industry experts saw Microsoft’s heavy use of flat design in Windows 8 as trend-setting. For all the perceived flaws of Windows 8, it seems that Microsoft managed to hit a homerun in terms of design.
But whether or not you believe that Microsoft is the instigator of the flat design trend, there’s no question that flat design will be a powerful force in the next few years. If you want to makeover your site with the colorful, high contrast, typography-focused style that forward-thinking webmasters are favoring these days, you can give one of these free WordPress themes a try.
The Trendy Colors theme is a brilliant (though dark) example of the high contrast nature of flat web design. The dark background is accented by bright red and yellow coloring of the inner elements.
The Trendy Colors theme is free for personal use, though commercial users are required to pay $19 for a commercial license. Trendy Colors is a fully responsive wordpress theme.
This extremely simple, yet bold theme uses large, high resolution images and a high contrast navigation bar to create a clean, simple style. The “Thoughts” blog theme is extremely versatile, but is especially suited towards bloggers who favor a clean, elegant look, and who enjoy carefully selecting and curating their blog images. The use of supersized images as a central focal point makes it a perfect theme for the highly visual or photographically inclined blogger. Thoughts is a fully responsive WordPress theme.
Tetris is a versatile theme that can be used both as a regular blog theme or as a the basis for a unique portfolio-style website. This theme makes clever use of flat design to accent images and video, while creating a clean, elegant interface that makes for easy browsing and navigation. Tetris is a great example of how flat design can be used to create an aesthetically pleasing site that also delivers a fantastic user experience. Tetris is a fully responsive wordpress theme.
MetroWP is an older metro style theme, but it’s a simple, straight forward example of flat web design; it’s colorful, high contrast, sharp, and extremely clean. This is a 100% pure CSS theme.
Despite being a year and a half old, MetroWP is still a sharp, beautiful theme that’s full of color and energy. MetroWP is perfect for the blogger looking for a unique, energetic layout.
Sensitive is a fully responsive WordPress theme that uses Twitter Bootstrap, but with distinctly “flat” accents. This versatile theme offers highly customizable settings for the homepage, 3 separate page templates, as well as support for a custom background. The custom background support makes it easy to drastically customize a site’s look with minimal effort.