There is a website and application design trend that is so subtle you can hardly see it.
The soft interface creates a frost-style or glass blur where elements sink and squeeze into the background, creating varying depths and dimensions.
Combine this effect with a softer, more pastel color palette, resulting in a lightweight, “soft” interface with depth in the shade and subtle overall effects.
Here we look at the trend using examples.
What is a soft interface?
The soft interface is a transition from all the bold, internal models of your face in recent years with bold colors, heavy fonts, and strong contrast.
The soft interface, also called neumorphism, is the opposite. It’s a much less dramatic style with more muted colors, lighter typographic styles, and shadows and depth for contrast. The result is a generally smoother design.
In addition to visual effects, movement and animation with a soft interface are smooth and seamless. Animations tend to be slower and less dramatic in an effort to mimic a visual.
The most important qualities
What should you expect to see in soft interface design? The most important features are:
- Monochrome color palette: The basic color palette often has a gray and soft interface, but not always.
- Large, blurry shadows indicate the separation of elements or objects that contain click / tap functions.
- Rounded corners with easy edges: There is nothing sharp in a real soft interface.
- A unified set of icons that matches the colors and softness of the model.
- The use of transparencies, background, and Gaussian ambiguity to remove the “edge” of elements.
- Lighter typography. Font options shift from strong tiles to lighter weights.
- Using fades, gradients, and simple color patterns with subtle variations. Note that gradients and fading can appear as part of the UI and background, as well as in UI elements and icons.
- The ability to switch between light and dark mode is a key part of the soft interface. Be sure to plan accordingly.
- Realistic atmosphere with elements on the screen and animation. The user interface should help mark interactive items.
- High-resolution design elements make every detail important. You can’t get out of style with a soft interface; high resolution screens do not lie. Combining this trend makes for a unified look and feel across all elements and styles.
The soft interface is not for everyone
The soft interface is a somewhat controversial design trend. People seem to love it or hate it.
Leaning on skeuomorphism is too much for some flat UI squeezes. Others point out potential problems with contrast and accessibility.
More monotonous palettes may also be superior to some users. Switching from many different types of colors to monochrome or much less colors can be visually confusing. (This can be a good thing or a bad thing.)
The subtlety of neumorphism can cause concerns about usability and conversion rates. Do website or app visitors know what to do with the design? (This can strongly depend on your core audience, so it’s a pertinent discussion in the planning process.)
Finally, the soft interface is really a matter of personal preference and taste. Don’t get stuck trying to force design into this trend if it doesn’t work for you or your client.
How to use Soft UI Design Trend
The soft interface seems to be the most popular at the moment with more application-style interfaces and dashboards. This is probably true due to the nature of the elements of these types of projects.
The soft interface seems to work best in projects that don’t have a lot of other visual elements. Therefore, it seems to be most common in applications and dashboards.
The soft interface is actually quite complex in terms of design and creating a unified interface, even though it looks “easy”. Therefore, this technology is best suited for small websites or applications rather than design with a lot of pages or moving parts.
The most important thing to think about when trying to find a way and place to use a soft interface is that every detail matters. The smallest elements – shadows, micro-interactions, iconography – can make or break the entire interface.
The soft interface seems to work best in projects that don’t have a lot of other visual elements. Therefore, it seems to be most common in applications and dashboards. The interface creates a kind of weird atmosphere when combined with videos, images, or drawings that aren’t soft.
If you are looking for a primer to create this style yourself, UX Planet has a nice guide how to achieve it using different design tools and CSS.
Due to the conversation around the soft interface, it is likely to evolve and change further. So you may not want to go all-in on a project with this design technique yet. (Stick to smaller, more flexible projects.)
Presumably, a change in contrast is seen mainly to ensure that this style is more accessible and works better for a larger number of people.
Presumably, a change in contrast is seen mainly to ensure that this style is more accessible and works better for a larger number of people. Increasingly, to ensure more accessible websites, some of the innate problems with a soft interface are a real problem that needs to be addressed.
The crucial factor is the adoption of a great brand. How does a company like Google or Apple use neumorphism in their design? If you start to see it there, expect the trend to move forward based on how these companies use it.
On the other hand, designers could continue to rely on it. The example above is an even more glass-style soft interface with more transparency and softness. (And it’s fun.)
The soft interface is one of those fun design trends that has a lot of potential when designers figure out the practicality of using it well. It can be a challenge to create, but fun to try.
While this style is not for all designers or every project, it is valuable to understand the thought process behind it and why the trend is gaining traction.