For 2016, our #BLPLearn blog series will offer a monthly look at design and technology as it pertains to learning and development. I’m your host, Jake Huhn, and I’m the Senior Marketing Technologist here at Bottom-Line Performance. In our flagship post we’ll be discussing Minimalism as it pertains to graphic design as well as UI/UX design—and why that matters for everyone from instructional designers to training managers.

Let’s Talk About Flat Design

I was inspired to write on this topic by an article titled “Has Visual Design Fallen Flat?” (Read it here.) At first glance, this article will seem like something that has been shared a million times before and you’re sick of reading. Yes, flat design is here and will be here for a while. Minimalism is just flat-out appealing… pun intended.

But the reason I’m sharing this article can almost boil down to a single quote:

“Some claim the trend towards minimalism is a sign of more mature users: innately familiar with how to interact with UI’s, they no longer need to be hit over the head with obviously-pressable beveled buttons. The training wheels have come off, and so designers are free to express themselves stylistically again, less encumbered by the obligation to educate.”

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Let’s Talk About “More Mature Users”

The author is completely right when he describes users as “innately familiar with how to interact with UI’s.” Make no mistake, that last line is not talking about educating like our industry does. He means we no longer have to educate our users on the simple nuances of the Internet.

People understand where to click by now. They understand exit icons and they understand the “Back” button. We no longer need to waste so much space and effort on these things—less cognitive load; more room for users to learn what they need to learn.

So What Does This Mean for L&D?

A whole lot. Let me explain:

Next month I’m going to be discussing the topic of responsive design—something web designers are already fluent in, but an area in which eLearning has a long way to go. Responsive design and minimalism go hand in hand. Have you ever gone to a website on your phone and seen a menu like this?


Try dragging the bottom corner of your browser window right now to shrink the width and that’s exactly what you’ll see. At 400px (give or take) wide, there is no room to simply write out every menu item… not unless we want to run our header halfway down the page. The icon you see above is a perfect example of how instinctive minimalist design has become. We all knew where the menu was, and if we didn’t, then we at least knew to click and investigate.

If we want to stay current, and if we want to meet our learners where they are, then we need to take the training wheels off. This minimalist mindset is the key to moving forward with responsive design and a myriad of other forward-thinking technology principles that our learners are coming to expect.

We have to believe that our learners aren’t Neanderthals when it comes to technology. No more “Click the X to the left to exit the window.” Only then can we come up with learning solutions that engage our learners and win their faith in what we have to teach.

With that, I’m signing off. Stay-tuned for next month’s post on responsive design!