“Less is more”- a phrase that is currently ruling the design world, whether you consider fashion, interior or web design. The phrase, of course, is a direct reflection of the age-old theory of minimalism. It is becoming the newest tool for marketing designs that are simple, elegant and most of all – functional.
And we can safely say Minimalism is in vogue.
The application of minimalism can be in two different ways. One is, of course, aesthetic, and another is functional. Here I will talk about the application of functional minimalism in web design, but before that, let’s look at the basic concept and the history of it.
Minimalism: The Basic Concept
The key principle of minimalism is to leave only the essential part of the feature for the Viewer’s eyes. This way the artist will not only focus the viewer’s attention on the important part of the art but also elevate the elegance of the piece. According to the words of Donald Judd, a legendary minimalist artist, “A shape, a volume, a color, a surface is something itself. It shouldn’t be concealed as part of a fairly different whole. The shapes and materials shouldn’t be altered by their context.”
When it comes to a minimalist design, it can go two ways. The designer can create minimalist design for the sake of aesthetic, or for the sake of functionality. Take this design in Figure 1 for example.
The above design is from Alfred Sung, an eyewear designer. While the design is minimal and looks beautiful aesthetical, the design fails to inform the user on the purpose of the website, unless they navigate through the menu bar. This minimalist web design is only there for aesthetic, not functionality.
But, if we look at the Figure 2 below, we will see a perfect application of functional minimalism in web design, presenting important information in a visually pleasing way.
The web design of Libraton. A clean smooth user interface, with easy navigation. This is a prime example of how functional minimalism in web design works. There is no extra text, unnecessary animation, and extra effect in the design. With apt images and content, they let the users know what the website is about.
When it comes to functional minimalism in web design, it is important to present the necessary content to the viewer in a visually pleasing way. There is no place for extra text, unnecessary animation, and extra effect in a minimalist design. The content and design are presented as it is, without any extra embellishments, in such a way that the visitor finds what they are looking for, easily without any fuss.
History And Evolution Of Minimalism
Minimalism as a concept means efficient living. Which means you can focus more on the core purpose.It means to get rid of all the excess features, ornaments, and embellishments from life. The Japanese culture prioritizes the harmony of simplicity and balance in their lifestyle, and you can see that reflected in their art, and architecture as well.
When talking about the history of minimalism, a brief look at the japanese culture is all you really need. The culture of Japan reflects the concept of minimalism in the best ways possible. The concept of minimalism has existed throughout history, but it was really popularized after World War II, through the works of artists Frank Stella, and Robert Rayman. As an effect of the popularization of the concept, the application of minimalism trickled into other spheres like architecture as well.
Soon enough, minimalism entered the world of web designing as well. At the genesis of the internet, there was another style of web designing style dominating the scenario, which is familiar to us as the Brutalistic web design. This specific style featured disorganized layouts, clunky and repetitive geometric patterns, use of multiple styles of fonts. All in all, the Brutalist web design reflects zero desire to cover up the ugly design elements.
But as designing started to improve, minimalism took forefront and websites started to become more aesthetically pleasing. However, brutalist designs are again making a comeback as a revolt against the homogenized web design style.
Minimalist Web Designs And Its Necessary Features
The application of minimalism in web designing is the most popular practice among designers today. The style has become so popular that today its features have become the rule of thumb when it comes to designing a functional website, which is why the best way you can get to know minimalist web design is by getting to know its main features.
1. Main Focus: Essential Content
In minimalist web design, content is the main focus. The interface is simplified through the removal of excess elements that are ultimately not going to help the user perform any tasks. This is why prioritization of content is an important process in this minimalist approach.
By prioritizing the content, a designer needs to remove every element on the webpage that might distract the user from the main content. Every element that is going to be included in the design will have a function. However, there is one problem you might face while stripping away the excessive content, and that is removing an important content. So make sure that you are not removing important content from the page to make it minimalistic.
- Extensive Use Of Negative Space
Based on the Japanese ma principle, the negative space or white space plays a big role in a minimalist design. The negative space or white space is an extremely common feature of minimalist web designing. The empty space between the content (whether image or text) is used to put more emphasis on the contents of the page.
Even though negative space is also called white space, it doesn’t always have to be white. As a designer, you can also use an empty full-color background to introduce negative space in your design.
- Visual Characteristics
There are several unique visual characteristics of minimalist web design. These characteristics play an important role in the overall look of the website.
- Flat Design And Textures
Leaving out overused 3D effects, shadows, and gradients, minimalist design makes extensive use of flat textures. There are no design elements that make the website look flashy. In a flat design, everything from fonts to icons are kept to a bare minimum, which is not only aesthetically pleasing but also functional as well. Below is a good example by QAccounting.
- Photos And Illustrations
A picture is worth a thousand words, which is why images and illustrations are the most important design elements of a minimalist web site. With a photo, you can convey more emotions and thoughts than with words. But this is only possible as long as the image you are using adheres to the principle of minimalism. If it is a crowded image/illustration with too many details, then it will negate the entire effect of the design. For example, check the following design by Manho.
- Limited Color Scheme
Color has the power to add visual focus on the content, but it can also distract the viewer. Hence designers aiming for a minimalist design usually opt for a limited color scheme. Whether the designer is using a monochromatic scheme involving only one color, or are making the most of only two colors, this use of limited color palette is one of the key visual characteristics of minimalist design.
2. Dramatic Typography
On a minimalist background, bold typography is sure to bring out the best of the content. And that is why designers apply this feature to emphasize their content. Basic agency does it right here.
3. Contrast In Design
Application of high contrast elements is a good choice for minimalist design. This way, as a designer you can bring out the most out of a simple design element without having to put in a lot of effort. Not to mention, this is also the most efficient way of directing the viewer’s focus towards the main element of the page. In a recent overhaul of their website, Unified Infotech revamped the color and contrast scheme to make it more appealing. Check it out.
Achieving Minimalism In Web Designing: Best Practices
Sometimes portraying the “less is more” philosophy can be challenging. So, if you are struggling with creating a minimalist design for your website, then don’t worry. Below, I have listed a few best practices, and by following them, you will be able to create a minimalist website design without any hitches.
1. Single Focal Point
The entire concept of minimalist design is based on trying to make the viewer focus on the main element of the webpage. Not to mention, in minimalism, content is the key. So it is no wonder that having a single focal point is one of the best practices for minimalism.
2. Hierarchy Of Content
I have discussed sorting your content and deciding what you need and what you don’t. Now it is time to decide what goes first and what goes last.
The hierarchy of content means the placement of content. Obviously, you want the most important bit of content on the top of the page, while the least important ones at the bottom. The viewer’s eyes always fixate on the top of the page, which is why it is important that you place the main content of the page near the top.
3. Precise And Crisp Content
Once again, I am going to talk about the content of the page. When it comes to writing content for a minimalist website, you need to get rid of excess words.
The text content of the page needs to include the bare minimum of words you need to get your message across.
4. Simplification Of Navigation
One of the important goals of minimalist design is to help the user complete their tasks as simply and efficiently as possible. For this, you need to integrate a simple and convenient navigation system, which can be tricky in a minimalist interface.
You might feel the need to hide the navigation in order to create the minimalist interface. However, this can lead to lower user satisfaction with your website. So remember that you need to simplify the design while keeping up with the minimalist design.
5. Functional Animations
Even though the animation is seen as just an embellishment in the design world, it can still be functional. Incorporating a purposeful animation in the minimalist interface is not only going to make it look, but it will make the interface more efficient. You can save screen space using animation while making your website more fun to surf.
6. minimalist Landing Pages And Portfolios
But what if your website is a content-rich website (like a news website or blog website)? In that case, it might be a little difficult to completely integrate the minimalist designs. Using the low-content interface will make the user scroll more and that might not be ideal for an efficient website. So what’s the solution?
Take the above landing page for example. The website for Mywony, a wedding dress designing and online shopping website, uses a minimal layout for their landing page. An e-commerce website, whether it’s Amazon, or something exclusive, has the tendency to be content heavy, with all the product they are selling. But Mywony takes the minimalist way, providing the visitors a perfectly functional design that looks visibly pleasing as well.
What’s Your Take?
So what is the end word?
Many still think that minimalism is just a visual aspect of design. While that is partially true, minimalism also has its own functionalities as well. Once you have unlocked all the secrets of the functionality of minimalism, you can apply it to create the best website design that will be not only a powerful communication device of communication between you and the viewers but also an aesthetically pleasing website viewers would love to visit.
Want to learn more?
If you’re interested in the intersection between UX and UI Design, then consider to take the online course UI Design Patterns for Successful Software and alternatively Design Thinking: The Beginner’s Guide. If, on the other hand, you want to brush up on the basics of UX and Usability, then consider to take the online course on User Experience (or another design topic). Good luck on your learning journey!