57: Minimalist web design

Beautiful but not bare.
Minimalism reduces user distraction. Too many page elements, is visual noise. A minimalist design puts the focus squarely on the content. Any splash of color on a black-and-white design, for example, is sure to get the user’s attention. The color itself becomes the focal point. The graphic element brings color, texture and/or shape. It is the most important element.

How to Minimize Content
Cut out anything that is not essential. Throw out as much as possible.
    * Icons or graphics for social media, or a social media section at all
    * Taglines and supplementary descriptions or introductions
    * “Featured,” “Popular” and “Recent” lists (including Twitter and RSS feed lists)
    * Pages with more than three major sections (e.g. “Introduction,” “About” and “Services”)
    * Secondary navigation pages.

How to Simplify the Design
Minimalist designs should have little texture, color, shape, lines, content or type. Go too bare, though, and the design will be boring. Rather than dumping everything out, give the design appeal by making just one important feature the focal point. Choose what that focus will be, and keep the tips below in mind as you work through your design.

    * Decide on what content you absolutely need.
    * In a list, prioritize the content.
    * Sketch based on your list to experiment with the best visual hierarchy.

White space is practically synonymous with minimalism.
No matter how creative you are with it, a minimalist design without plenty of white space is not really minimalist at all. So, be sure to add more white space around elements than you normally would. The space is needed to balance the few elements that will appear on the page.

Balance, Alignment, Contrast
While much of the load can be carried by white space and a good layout, special care should be taken with the fundamentals of design. The three biggest related to minimalism are balance, alignment and contrast. It does not need supplementary visuals to look “finished.”

Black and White
One trends is extensive use of black and white. This is obvious enough: color should be simplified along with texture, shape and content. But it can be overdone and look  boring. Think of how to stay minimalist even with strong use of color.

Typography-based Web design is closely tied to minimalism.
When designers have very little else to excite the user, they often seize on interesting typography. You could even go so far as to use typography as the sole visual element. Look for ways to make typography enhance the design while remaining unique.

A surprising number of minimalist web designs are Flash-based. With so little else for visual stimulation, a design could benefit from subtle animation (such as text fading in and out) without being overpowering. Also, Flash removes certain limitations in the design process.

negative-effects of minimalism

It’s Just a Style
Simplifying a website is one thing, but minimalism on its own is just a style like grunge, illustrated and sleek Web 2.0 are styles. Not every design needs it.

Minimalism Is for “Artsy” Websites
Extreme minimalism is common in portfolios and other creative-type websites. Minimalist design best suits modern websites in creative industries.

The Ordinary Web User
the majority of Internet users are not creatives. Many non-designers don’t appreciate minimalist design or even find it visually appealing.

Content-Rich vs. Cluttered
We often mistake non-minimalist websites as being cluttered, and ugly. Cluttered websites are confusing and unattractive. Even experienced designers think first to remove elements when something is “missing.”

Cluttered vs. Content-Heavy
A cluttered design has little white space; its typographic styles, colors and other elements clash; it is a disorganized mess; the layout is ineffective or absent; and content is excessive, not rich.

Minimalism is undoubtedly effective. But it’s not for everyone, and some people prefer other styles.

Below are a few common mistakes made with minimalist design:

    * Self-Defeating Usability
      Minimalist websites should be the most usable websites, because nothing is there to confuse or get in the way; and the text is thought out extra carefully. Often though, with little on the page, visitors have difficulty figuring out where to go. So, attention to visual hierarchy is a must. Also, getting creative with the navigation is fine, but don’t get too creative.
    * Minimal Design or Minimal Interest?
      Beautifully minimal or just plain boring? You can make a minimalist design interesting in a number of ways, while preserving its calm and simple appeal.
    * Is the Message Strong Enough?
      Minimalist designs are best for adorning messages that are compelling on their own. The idea is to strip the website of any excess content or elements that would detract from the message. If the message is weak, ill-conceived or absent, then a minimalist design may not be the right choice. Brochure websites are an example of this: basic information with no distinct message.

We improve a design by simplifying it: that’s a basic design rule.

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