Study: Flat UI Leads to 22% Slower Navigation
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For several years, flat design has been one of the hottest trends in Web design, but new research says that that flat interfaces are making things more difficult for users. Nielsen Norman Group conducted research tracking eye movements and navigation for people using websites with and without flat design elements. It found, "On average participants spent 22 percent more time (i.e. slower task performance) looking at the pages with weak signifiers," that is, the pages with flat design.
Of course, web developers are often trying to increase the amount of time that users spend on their sites, but the report clarified that this was not desirable in this instance. "Since this experiment used targeted findability tasks, more time and effort spent looking around the page are not good. These findings don't mean that users were more 'engaged' with the pages. Instead, they suggest that participants struggled to locate the element they wanted, or weren't confident when they first saw it."