Effectively using 3D elements in web design to increase UX


The battle between flat design and skeuomorphism (3D design) rages on and while different philosophies motivate each type of web design, developers are now working on creative ways to employ a balance of both.

Flat design is simplistic, and hardly gets in the way of smooth browsing. We all know the ease that minimalistic designs bring with them, and as more and more people access websites on their mobile phones these days, it becomes all the more difficult to enhance the use of 3D elements to increase UX.

Flat designs load quicker, but hey, what about the pop of emboss and texture that even a single 3d image can bring for an entire webpage? Digital design used to be all about the newest use of drop shadows and 3d textures that are eye-catching and stay in the mind of the visitor even when they leave the site. However, many browsers/mobile phones will fail to actively bring out the real design and take longer to load, and once the visitor feels his browser isn’t compatible with the speed your webpage needs, chances are he might not waste additional seconds waiting for it to load through every click.

Here’s how to muster the courage (and creativity) to strike the balance between “real vs realism” and to play around with digital design intelligently enough.

A web design agency’s job is lengthier, if not tougher, when it comes to the shrewd use of 3D effects and images in a way that manages to hold up the philosophy of simplicity from flat design, and doesn’t make the website hard to browse. Remember UX is all about keeping a visitor on your page for long, and that won’t happen if your shadows and texts are getting in the way of subsequent clicks. You don’t want to lose users to your passionately developed skeuomorphic designs, do you?

Hold your 3D horses:


[divider]Limit 3D design to just the home page[divider]

On a number of new and improved webpages, we see the increasing trend of the use of a dominating 3D image on the landing page, and the rest of the website appears in flat design. This manages to keep logistics under control, and ensures that browsing is not hindered. RESULT: visitor stays on board.

This could mean the use of a life size image, with a pop of bright colour that becomes an instantly recognizable brand image, and leads the visitor conveniently into the rest of the (flat design) website. Gaming and product websites make use of a gigantic image that is immediately identifiable as their product which leads the visitor to other features of the game/product.

[divider]Scatter 3d images across the webpage[divider]

Alternatively, you could opt for a few 3d effects and textures and use them all over the page. As a web designer, you have a level playing field and there’s plenty of room out there to show off your web skills. So why not jump into it and display smart insight into your own work?

[divider]Navigation Tabs[divider]

Making use of 3d shadows in the toggle bar/navigation bar at the top of the page gives the general impression of a creatively designed webpage. Even if the rest of the design comes out in flat images, the idea that the tabs are skeuomorphic, adds the perfect amount of zing.

You could also make use of mouse-over and hover-over design effects to make the webpage all the more interactive. A popular way is to make use of neon colours on tabs as the visitor hovers over them. Each coloured tab could lead to a new page which would use a tinge of the same colour here and there. Creative much?

[divider]Use of shadows[divider]

Many flat images if shadowed on the main page, tend to add depth to the webpage. The use of shadows under images can give off a floating effect and bring a real-life feel to the images, but at the same time not over-doing the 3D fad.

Images placed outside of the frame (commonly used in product websites such as cell phones etc.) also give the impact of clever design.

Screenshot 2015-06-09 13.51.28

[divider]Keep it real but simple[divider]

To keep coming up with more 3D design elements that are both simple but don’t lack the oomph that you want your website to possess, focus on creating simplistic 3D parallax designs that trigger enthusiasm. Play around with the size and the placement of the 3D effects, and once you feel that the overall website is good to go, stop right there and avoid dumping it with too much design. A confused and misguided customer will not stay for long!


Written by Misha Felicity

Misha Felicity is pretty crazy about computer games and is normally called a technology geek. She covers every aspect of online marketing from branding to blogging and design. Also a Pinterest addict who still does not know how to cook.

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