The Basics of Minimalist Web Design
Minimalists stick to the basics. They drill down to the most important elements while leaving out anything that is not totally necessary. This is true of minimalist Web design. While being a minimalist when designing a website may seem simple, it is not. Keeping a website clean and sleek takes vision, creativity and skill. The best minimalist website design principles start with the bare bones and finish with a clean masterpiece.
Less is More
This is the guiding principle of minimalist design. Think bold typeface set against one, striking image. A few lines of text that stand alone on the screen, tempting you to want more. Minimalist Web designers skip the rainbow of colors and go with a monochrome theme that puts the emphasis on the most important items on the page. Color is used strategically, and with only black and white elements, there is nothing to distract the user from the end message.
Toned down color elements are used purposely so as not to take away from the content itself. Though the site may feature text and navigation bars in black and white, the use of vibrant color images is acceptable, and even encouraged.
Some sites use one accent color against a black and white canvas. This color element is somehow vital to the content of the page, and may be a logo, graphic or other image. Some designers use pops of color to highlight a link or a piece of interesting text. Others go with monochrome color schemes in one primary color, like blue. So color lovers, rejoice. You’re not limited to black, white and grayscale only.
Minimalist Web designers live by the principle of subtracting and subtracting until you can’t subtract anymore. One of the main drawbacks of this line of thinking is that subtracting too much can degrade the user experience. Make sure you are not hiding useful information or content from your reader.
The Use of Negative Space
In most minimalist Web design, there is an overwhelming amount of negative space. In fact, it is not uncommon to see websites with a white page and only a few lines of black text in the middle. Before committing to using only negative space with precious few elements, it pays to plan how you will be able to achieve this while still providing useful content.
- How will the use of negative space allow users to discern the most important elements first?
- How will the use of negative space make a difference in navigation? Will users keep scrolling if there is nothing at the top of the page?
- How will the use of negative space affect the user experience? Will it force them to work harder to find the information they need?
- How will the use negative space translate across devices?
Simple, Bold Graphics
Minimalist Web design requires using simple graphics that have a strong impact visually. They have sharp angles or stand alone against contrasting text. For maximum effect, designers may use black and white or grayscale images to fine-tune their drama. No cluttered shapes taking up the page here. Just dramatic lines that pop.
Use of a Single, Large Background Image or Video
One of the newest trends in minimalist design is to use a single image behind simple text. This has a striking visual effect, and makes a strong statement without forcing the user’s eyes to dart around the page. There are a few key tips to consider when going with this method.
- The images must have meaning and be central to the page’s message. In other words, don’t just use any image. This will confuse the reader.
- The text that’s layered on top of the image must be readable and legible.
- Larger images may take longer to load, making it difficult for your readers to view your content. This is where a good web hosting plan comes into play.
- Avoid the use of auto play videos. Users hate these, especially if they play audio as well.
Minimalist Web designers love grids. Whether you are designing a photography website or a bakery’s site, the use of grids breaks all of your images down to simple and predictable boxes. With all of the elements the same shape and size, it’s easy to make a visual impact with grids. Grids are overwhelmingly mobile-friendly, and have a huge impact when you are displaying like objects. Grids also help you to lay elements out in a linear fashion and emphasize the clean white space between them.
When designing your minimalist website, it is important to keep the end user in mind. Yes, having a bare bones page that makes a strong visual impact is amazing, but it pays to think of how this translates to the user’s experience.
- Did you hide the navigation bar? Can people click around your site to find what they need?
- Are the headings clearly defined?
- Is the coding clean? Will the page load the way you expect it to? Is your web hosting plan strong enough to support it?
- Is there a way for the user to return to the home page? Have you disabled key navigation buttons like “Back?”
- Does the user know what page he’s currently on?
Minimalism works well for creating a visual impact, but it defeats its purpose if it drives users away from your site.
Who Should Avoid Minimalism?
This theory of Web design doesn’t work for everyone. If you are selling themes, it pays to display a variety of layouts that will appeal to all audiences. Some may see minimalism as lacking in features and elements.
If your site depends on ad revenue, a minimalist design probably won’t work for you. By their very nature, ads are unnecessary elements to the site. If you are using automatically generated ads, you won’t be able to control their color schemes—many of which may be in direct contrast to your own design ideas.
When it comes to the basics of minimalism in your Web design, the key is to subtract as much as possible without sacrificing your site’s purpose. A site has to be visually appealing while still offering what the user wants-the ability to garner the information they need and use your site easily.