- Lance Johnson 01.19.2016
Gone are the days when cramming your website to the throttle seemed savvy and groovy, just as decking up like a Christmas tree was a norm of the 70’s (think choker necklaces and mood rings). Minimalism is the new sexy and web designers are quick to leer at its chic façade with much approval. Just because you know how to incorporate sliders, parallax, animation, images that come to life on hover, whistles, purring kittens, dancing minions, or kitchen sinks to your website, doesn’t mean you should! Everybody needs a breathing space, and so does your website. A minimalist designer beautifully balances aesthetics with functionality, stunning visuals, stellar content, striking typography, and –nothing else! The natural elegance, low maintenance, and lightweight layouts make it perfect for a responsive design, the epitome of successful optimization. Here’s why “less is more” when it comes to designing your website:
While you may be tempted to incorporate every funky element to make your website stand out, stop for a moment, breathe, and delve in to introspection; what am I trying to convey to the user? Hold your focus there instead of conjuring up ways to clutter your page. Your website needs to have a clear, easily comprehensible, and strong focal point to eliminate any confusion. By defining a purpose early on, you can keep your design track from going awry.
A minimalistic design holds the designer on a leash, instead of playing loose. Since each element is diligently planned and serves a purpose, you can’t turn your message in to a garish mishmash. You can’t write a whole novel, integrating your message somewhere in between (Think like Hemmingway when writing your copy). You are forced to choose what is absolutely needed to get your message across to the audience and let go of the rest (no matter how “cool” it is). Any element that would distract the users from the site’s purpose, is really filler rather than a necessity, and doesn’t reinforce your message, needs to be dumped. E.g. Logos, contact information, body content, and navigation options have a high priority, while widgets, social media links, or footers can be thrown away.
In sites like Amazon, where it is absolutely necessary to have a detailed interface to support content categories, the designer can hide the content until clicked on to trim down the number of UI elements. For instance, for a restaurant menu page, instead of listing every burger on the menu, the designer could choose to have an icon of a hamburger that shows the entire list when clicked or hovered over. However, while such a strategy to go full throttle keeps the site spick and span, it is not applied for sites where oversimplification lessens the discoverability of navigation items. The bottom line is to contemplate the purpose of your site and work with what you have!
Yahoo and Google are both counterparts but where would you find it easier to access the search tab? Google sticks to its goal of being a search engine, while Yahoo is (to say the least) the jack of all trades! Good luck finding a pertinent function on Yahoo. Where do you, as a patron, conduct more searches?
If you indulge in human psychology, whitespaces bring with them a sense of calmness, and tranquility. White spaces convey that the website knows what it’s about, understands what it wants you to do, and is never going to bury you under overwhelming information. By depleting the valuable white spaces, the site becomes jam-packed, the elements run together, and it doesn’t provide the much needed reprieve to the eyes that users are after. Keeping up with the spirit of simplicity, each page of your website should have a clear purpose, centered on a visual. However, if the lack of elements is ruining your site, a better option is to apply minimalism to the landing page only, which would lead to a more intricate site.
The minimalistic agenda also holds true for the navigational menus. Make sure your menu only has the necessary elements. For instant, look at the menu of “Help Scout” which only has the most vital four elements- Product, blog, and pricing. Every other, less important, page is tucked under the “More” tab. No 3-4 level deep menus and no cluttering the top header space! This helps users in finding the pertinent pages and enhances conversion!
Since your page is so uncluttered in a minimalistic design, you can make your USP shine bright. Minimalism helps to bring the most important content to the forefront by minimizing distractions for the users. If the page has too many elements, the users wouldn’t know where to look or might even misinterpret the elements. If you take a close look at “Help Scout”, their homepage has an elegant and clean layout. There are a total of 10 words that pass as content, a menu, and a single background image that shows the support team working. One of them might be the man who’s going to man your helpdesk!
With many sites, you only have a few seconds to convey your message or guide a user along to sales, before the visitor tires of the site and bounce off. The use you the weight and the size of elements creates a path, leading the user through the pages, ending up in the call to action arena. When a user feels like they are heading in the right direction, they would resume their path; otherwise they may become frustrated and leave.
Minimalism can be incorporated in to any design. Think of it as an attribute that can be used in conjunction with any design to mitigate its weaknesses or fortify its strengths. In the contemporary era of heavy dependence on mobile phone and other devices, minimalism alleviates the site’s maintenance without wreaking havoc on its quality.
If your website has a flat design, it would go exceptionally well with minimalism, since both shares a common goal of gleaning simplicity. Both shirk unnecessary design tricks and maintain their focus on providing a pleasant user experience. However, if you don’t want to step in to the stark worlds of flat designs, large scale realistic pictures and photos are all the rage. Since these massive pictures take up most of the screen space, coupling them with minimalism sounds better than ruthlessly competing for the user’s focus.
Since words have an esteemed value in a minimalistic design, typography is the most popular way for minimalistic sites to portray their creativity and personality, and create an engaging user experience. You have probably come across this kind of design several times- plain white background, one graphic element, and one block of content. The graphic element alone is responsible for bringing the shape, texture and color to the page, and also defines the designer’s brand!