Minimalism is about removing all elements from a design except the bare minimum for the design to function. When it comes to the web design, minimalist design refers to a design that doesn’t have fancy graphical elements in it. Visual details like drop shadows, gradients, patterns, textures, highlights, and reflection are not used in minimalist web design.
When all unimportant things are taken away from a website, the attention of visitors is shifted to the important things. Although a minimalist website may look simple, it is not easy to design one. Learning the basic principles of minimalistic web design will help you to build websites with minimalist design. Before diving into the principles directly, we can discuss what minimalist design is, why it is important and whether it is successful or not.
At first sight, a minimalist design may look like a lazy or less thoughtful design. It is a bold move to make the design simple, concise and more effective.
What is Minimalist Design?
Once a UI designer in the Apple Inc. presented a feature rich, fancy and highly interactive UI for DVD writing software for Mac OS. It contained lots options and interactive elements to help the users. What the then CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, said the UI designer was that the UI looked beautiful, but they didn’t want that.
He, then, took a pen and drew a simple layout of the UI in a paper. It contained small menu bar on the top, a large box below that where users can drop files into and a button to start the DVD writing. Nothing fancy!
This is minimalist design, and its fundamental idea is less is more. We see minimalist design in architecture, interior design, graphic design, product design, and in many other art forms.
In minimalist web design, we add only the bare minimum elements and contents for the website and present them with a very simple and minimal design. The best way to understand minimalistic web design would be to see some minimalist website examples.
Is Minimalist Design Good?
Most of us are suspicious about the power of minimalist design to make an impact on the viewers. Minimalist design is proven successful and used by the most prominent designers and brands in the world.
The best way to figure out whether the minimalist design is good or bad would be looking at the website or promotional materials of big brands.
Brands like Apple, Samsung and TATA use ads and other promotional materials with minimalist design. These companies spend millions and millions of dollars to create each these kinds of design.
These ads are created by well-known designers in the creative design industry, and when they follow this style, they do that for some reasons. Moreover, big brands embraced minimalist design because it is working for them.
If the minimalist design works for Apple and Samsung, it should also work for you.
Top Principles of Minimalist Web Design
Minimalist design is a departure from the sophisticated and materialistic design. There are certain principles that constitute the nature and characteristics of the minimalist web design.
The foundation of minimalistic design aesthetics is Simplicity. It stands for clarity and purity, and it is achieved by removing unimportant elements that may distract the users from the important elements.
Minimalistic websites are concise and bare minimum. They are very simple and not overwhelming to the visitors. Simplicity is achieved by removing elements like shadows and other details that clutter up a design.
You should not assume that minimalist design is easy because it has a simple design. Simple can be harder than sophisticated. It is very easy to make something sophisticated and complicated, but it is hard to make it simple yet effective.
Steve Jobs rightly said:
“simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
No wonder Apple products changed the way the world perceives design.
Flat design is a style closely associated with the modern design and minimalist design. It strips realistic or three-dimensional elements like shadows, reflections, highlights and gradients from the design and emphasizes a clean and simple design. The elements in a flat design are less detailed, and there won’t be textures or patterns in the design.
The design is optimized to help the users do what the design is supposed to do. The usability of the website is given importance over the aesthetics. Visitors reach a website seeking something, and ideally, a good design should help the visitors to do what they wanted instead of confusing them. While complicated design would confuse the visitors and it reduces the usability of a website, a minimalist website helps the visitors to do what they want very quickly.
Less is more
In a general website, visitors have to visually skip lots of irrelevant elements in a web page before they find the relevant content. One way designers helped visitors to find the important content easily was by emphasizing them rather than removing the unimportant content. Actually, this makes the design more cluttered.
In minimalist design, the important elements are emphasized by removing every unimportant content and elements from the design and by only including the elements that required the visitors’ attention most.
It is considered to have only the bare minimum content and elements to make the design more effective.
Content is the King
The presentation of the content is not important than the content itself. In any type of design, whether it is a minimalist design or not, the content is the most important element for a website. However, sometimes the presentation of the content takes the attention of visitors away from the content. It doesn’t do any good for the website owner.
The minimalist design attempts to bring the attention of visitors to the content. The best ways to get the intended point across are to strip every element that is not super important and make the presentation as simple as possible.
A compelling and effective content is essential for a minimalist website because all they provide is the content.
White Space Rules the Design
White space is an important element of composition in minimalist design. In web design, a white space doesn’t have to be white; it simply means an empty space. The empty space around elements adds breathing space in the design.
Moreover, the distribution of the white space can be effectively used to create a visual flow of the design. This helps designers to control the flow of viewers’ attention through the design.
Basically, the white space in the design prevents it from being overwhelming to the visitors and makes it more comprehensible.
Generally, the background of a minimalist web design has a solid background. The common background colors are white, black and different shades of grays.
Sometimes, images are also used as background but images without busy background. Images with lots of clean empty space are what usually used as background.
Designers have limited choices to make a minimalist design attractive. The lack of rich design makes it important to have a beautiful typography. The text would be the main content in a minimalist design and it should be laid out in the best ways to achieve great design.
Minimalist design generally features large and bold texts. Most of the time, the title texts on the web pages are the most important elements in the design and hence it is given much emphasis.
A minimalist design without great typography would not be attractive. Typography is an art of its own and it is generally considered difficult by most of the designers. This is why minimalist design is difficult.
The elements are designed to grab the attention of visitors immediately. Complementary colors are used to achieve strong contrast.
Most of the time, we see black and white as the dominant colors in a minimalist website.
It doesn’t have to be like that and any colors can be used in a minimalist design. The number of colors in the color scheme of a minimalist website is limited to two or maximum three. One color is used as a dominant in the background and the other colors are used for the texts.
Most of the minimalist websites out there have only a couple of pages. The navigation is very simple and straightforward. Some websites even avoid the use of hamburger menu icon or similar feature to toggle navigation. Instead, they display the navigation prominently all the time on all devices.
Harmony in Design
This is important for any kind of design but it is prominent in the minimalist design. The number of elements in the design is very minimal. Sometimes, elements are significantly enlarged to achieve visual balance. It is also important to use a grid in design to achieve harmony in the design.
Basically, basic layout and composition techniques are used to get a harmonious design that has perfect visual balance.
Basic visual balance techniques like the radial, symmetrical, asymmetrical, horizontal and vertical are the foundation of harmonious composition in minimalist web design.
Minimalist design is proven successful and many companies use this style in designing websites and other promotional materials. Although it looks simple, it requires lots of skills and imagination to accomplish the true minimalist design. The best way to understand minimalist design and how to execute them in design is to learn the principles of minimalist design.