History of Minimalism
One thing that always happens no matter what part of society you are in is synthesis and antithesis. Back in the early to mid 2000’s, web designers were getting very excited about all the new technologies available to them. This resulted in the creation of sites that were busy, overpowering, and full of fancy flash animations. Minimalism is a reaction to that movement to bring the focus of websites back to their core – presenting the content in a way that puts the user and their needs first.
Key Points of Minimalist Design
Define the Site’s Purpose
Minimalism really goes back to the very start of your design process where you determine the purpose of the website. By clearly stating the purpose of the website from the beginning and building your design around that purpose, you will ensure that you don’t include extraneous elements that detract from the finished design. Constantly asking yourself “How does this help me reach the purpose of the website” will keep you on the right track to creating a beautiful, highly usable design.
Hierarchy – Size of text and elements
The hierarchy and size of the text and elements of your website should be relative to their importance to your users. Don’t place your logo front and center filling up the entire browser width. Users don’t really care about your logo. Rather, you should ensure that users can quickly determine and find what your business is about and the purpose of the website.
Take a look at these examples and see if you can determine what the site’s purpose is in less than 5 seconds:
Ensure Usability. It’s A Non-Optional Essential.
One of the main principles of minimalism is usability. By trimming down extraneous design elements and content, you ensure that your website is a joy to use.
Just because your website is minimalistic does not mean it is automatically user friendly. You must thoroughly think through how your users will navigate the site. How will they interact with the different elements of the page, and design accordingly.
Here are some examples of bad minimalism:
Ross Gunter (The home page doesn’t tell the visitor what the site is about)
Here are some examples of great usability:
Leave Room for Whitespace.
Whitespace helps direct your user to whatever content is most important on your website. When you are designing and constructing a minimalist design, you must ensure you have determined the level of priority different elements of your website have. Is your company tagline more important than your twitter feed? If so, then be sure you design accordingly.
Many beginning designers feel that the more “fancy” and “creative” their layout is, the more their design will receive the “wow” factor when being used. However, the exact opposite is true. It is only a master of design who can utilize just a few key elements to put together a website that truly makes your users enjoy using your website.
Whitespace is to a website what street signs are to roads; without it you will become confused and won’t find what you need.
Here is an example of a cluttered website:
Here are a few examples that utilize the principle of whitespace:
Beautiful and Functional Use of Typography
When you are designing a website, you must ensure that you use the typography of the website in a way that adds function, beauty, and usability to the design.
I’m sorry guys, but using Arial is just not going to cut it for this type of design. You need to be creative and think outside the box when choosing a font.
Your font selection goes back to the website’s purpose. What is the mood of my business? Am I trying to indicate professionalism? How about fun & games? The font you choose for a Dirt Bike Racing park is going to be totally different from a Beauty Salon website. Choose wisely and use typography creatively in a way that adds to the usability of the design.
Here are some great uses of creative typography. Notice how they give a mood to the company’s website:
Use a Grid – Alignment Is Key.
One of the most important elements of good design is the layout. It is very important that everything is laid out clearly and with good organization. One of the problems of the old “flash-days” is that site elements were just abstractly placed on the page; there was no purpose for their placement.
Using a grid will help you to place different elements of your website on the page in a structure that guides your user around the page.
You can see from these examples that using a grid only enhances your design if used correctly:
PANDR (this entire site is grid-based – awesomeness!)
Can I Still Use Color In My Designs?
Just because you are focusing on minimalism, doesn’t mean you can’t have color in your design. Color should add to the design and direct your attention to the key elements and content of your website.
Notice how these sites use color to direct your attention to key parts of the website:
Useful Sites & Articles To Inspire You: