When you think of the modern web browsing experience you think of bountiful amounts of white space and clean layouts with bright accent colors, right? No? Just me? Well you should. For years, web has been moving further and further away from the cluttered frames & cartoony layouts of yesteryear and moving towards the clean, near bare layouts that we are seeing now.
Common Design Elements & Best Practices
Minimalism’s lightweight layouts and low maintenance upkeep make it an incredibly flexible option and that’s why it’s all we see online right? Well, not exactly. Minimalism, can be deceptively hard to pull off successfully. Due to it’s sparse elements, designers have to think a little harder about the overall design and where content and other elements will end up on the page.
- Less is More: let a handful of visuals convey your larger message while providing a couple of informative links and identifying lines of text/branding. Thankbot keeps things simple with a call to action button above the fold and explanatory content below.
- Be Color Selective: Use sparse colors, making sure to carefully select the ones that will draw the users eye.
- Purposeful Use of Space: break your text up into small paragraphs or sentences. Spread them out in the order and direction you want them to be read. Take, for example, Apple’s Mac website.
- Trim the Fat: remove anything that could detract from your overall message. Leave elements in place only if the design makes no sense without it. “Hell’o Baby” is a website for an app that consists of one page, simple graphics and select color swatches.
- Keep it Fresh: because of the ‘blank canvas” like nature of minimalistic websites, boredom is a factor to be mindful of. Alternate layouts & bright accent colors choices along with CSS Transitions or jQuery enhancements can help. For example: This one page site for guitar lessons . Whimsical art and subtle transitions keep the user engaged.
- Landing Pages: If you have content rich site, creating a minimalist landing page is a viable solution.
OnePageLove is an excellent place to go to get ideas on minimalist websites. They feature websites in a multitude of different genres and specialties so there is something for everyone. If you need ideas and in practice examples of minimalist sites featuring a one page layout, this is the place to go.
Pros and Cons
Much like with anything, there are positives and negatives. The same goes when making the decision to move to a more minimal layout design. One major thing to consider when deciding on a minimalist website is, ‘Will this work for my site? Will this work for my content?’. Content-heavy sites like Amazon, Craigslist or E-Bay would have a hard time switching to a more minimalist layout. Trimming all the content down could end up muddling your voice and eliminating details of your brand. If you’d really like to make minimalism work for your business, consider this: Run tests before fully committing to a whole new look; and if moving from content heavy site to minimal one, release changes gradually. Include a notice in your blog or a newsletter letting your users know of the change.
I’m not here to be a Debbie Downer though, there are a lot of benefits to going minimal though, including:
- Faster load times (without the multiple photos and videos the site loads faster)
- Ease of navigation (fewer pages, fewer chances to get lost in a site)
- Less strain on your server
- Centralization of content (by stripping all of the distractions away your message becomes clear and cohesive)
- Responsiveness (easier to make a site responsive without worrying about multiple widgets)
With the practical benefits that come along with minimalism such as those listed above, it’s a layout option to at least look into. If you do have a content heavy site, think of creating a landing page that’ll act as a gateway to the rest of your content. Minimalistic designs can be really fun and whimsical if you know who you are as a company and who your users are (or will be). There are plenty of sites out there that highlight these designs, so don’t be afraid to seek out and get inspired!