The Anatomy of a Minimalistic Web Design
Judging by the amount of interest created by two galleries, 25 Beautiful, Minimalistic Website Designs and 25 Beautiful, Minimalistic Website Designs – Part 2 , many of you have an appreciation for an attractive, yet simple, design. As a result, I’ve taken a look at what makes minimalistic designs successful and I’d like to share my thoughts here. I know that not everyone likes these types of designs, so your opinions of what is good design may will differ from mine.
If you appreciate websites with a minimalist design style, you’ll love our new gallery site Minimal Exhibit.
Plenty of White Space
One of the keys to minimalism in design is effective use of white space and a distinct lack of clutter. Of course white space doesn’t have to be white, it simply refers to open space in the design, whatever color that may be. Clutter can have several negative impacts on visitors. Most importantly, visitors have a hard time focusing on the most important parts of a page if it is cluttered. White space makes the contents of the page easier to digest.
Finch is an example of effective use of white space.
Creating a website with very few images and extra items is not that difficult, but creating one that looks good can be more of a challenge. Many of the best mimimalistic designs compensate for using less photos and graphics by making better use of typography. Excellent typography is capable of replacing many of the visual benefits that are lost by not using a lot of images. For this reason, typography is even more critical in a minimalistic design than it is for other styles of design.
Maximizing the Impact of Images
Effective minimalistic designs rely on making a strong impact with the few images and graphics that they do use, rather than making an impact by using a lot of them. It’s quality vs. quantity in a way. By using fewer images, those that are used are able to be more effect and draw more attention from visitors. The added whitespace also helps these images and graphics to stand out.
Effective Use of Color
Color choices are important for any design, but more so for minimalistic designs. With less busyness on the page, the color combinations play a larger role in the look of the site. There is nothing to hide poor color choices in a minimalistic design. Pages and sites that use a lot of images and photographs will get more color from these elements, a luxury that minimalistic designs do not have.
Color can be a very powerful method for helping particular content to stand out. The simplicity of a minimalistic design allow color choices to have more of an impact. Earlier I mentioned the importance of typography and how it can help to replace the need for images. Effectively combining color and typography can have significant results.
Ben Hulse uses a black background and only white and gray text, but the large image and the navigation work together to give the page a nice touch of color (go to the site and check out the navigation and how it interacts with the photo).
Clarity of Purpose
One of the biggest reasons for using a simple design is that it is easier for visitors to quickly see the purpose of a website or a particular page, rather than being distracted by excessive things that are going on as well. With this approach you have better control over the message that is portrayed to visitors.
Mark Boulton Design uses the line “beautiful, simple design” to quickly get his message across to visitors.
Elimination of Extras
Minimalism is obviously a lack of anything that is not necessary. By getting rid of what is not needed, what is left has more of an impact on visitors.
When compared with most other news websites, The Morning News presents less to its visitors, which makes it easier to digest its content.
Many websites have so much going on that it’s difficult for visitors to know what is the focal point of the site, or what is most important. Simple websites have an advantage in that they can more effectively direct the visitor’s attention to the most important content of the page.
What’s Your Opinion?
Do you like or dislike this style of design? What would you add or take away from the points mentioned above?
The use of the term ’simplistic’ worries me a little in the first couple of posts. I’ve always equated ’simplistic’ with a lazy or untalented designer trying to pull off a Dieter Rams design. I’ve had so many students try to describe their designs as ’simple’ or ‘clean’, I banned the term in the classroom.
To me, ’simple’ and ’simplistic’ are two very different terms. ‘Simple’ is phenominally hard to achieve, ’simplistic’ is a crude imitation of ’simple’ without the craftmanship or understanding of design. ‘Simple’ is seen as easy to do because the end result is so perfect. Imitators end up with ’simplistic’.
Things that are simple:
Apple’s 1st gen iPod Shuffle – unbelievably tactile
Paul Renner’s Futura typeface – many imitators, no competitors
Anything designed by Dieter Rams
Published January 16th, 2008 by Steven Snell