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March 9, 2012

Minimalism in Web Design

Minimalism is considered to be one of the latest and most influential trends in design or any other creative subject. Removing clutter and focusing on what’s important is essential for the human brain to assimilate information and understand it faster.

The web has passed through a series of changes in time, starting with less sophisticated design, going through a period with lots of flash, graphics and visuals that sometimes created a chaos unpleasant for the eye. Designers have finally come to an end with this, choosing to express their creativity and message through a more simple way, removing the excess of useless graphics and content. Minimalism in web design means eliminating this excess containing useless visuals or content, focusing on the information that is presented in an easy to navigate, intuitive way.

The concept behind minimalism is “Less is more”, which leads designers to use fewer elements that might clutter the overall aspect of a website. This is available for the functionalities of a website as well. If there are too many of them, the end user gets easily confused. It is most of the times hard to gather all the information you would like to deliver to the end user through a simplistic method, without using too many elements, as I am sure it might sound overwhelming.

The thing is that it will also be overwhelming for the user to read or find the information he needs to find fast. With today’s fast spinning events, the lack of time won’t let you linger a lot on one website to search for something. The internet is full of many other sources, this is why you have to know how to invite the user on your page and make him not want to leave it fast. This is why, you might want to learn more about the concept of minimalism and these are a few concepts described here.

Less is More

The basic principle that every designer should take into consideration once he decides to go minimal with his design is described as follows: the less elements you will use, the better. Focusing on the main elements that will clearly represent your website is essential. Creating a plan beforehand, finding the right elements and getting rid of those optional elements will make it easier for you while making the wireframes for your future web design. Some other tips I think might help you would be those of Dieter Rams. He is a German industrial designer, having nothing to do with web design but giving out some vital tips that will help all the creative minds that would like to get friendly with minimalism in their works. Rams states that good design:

1. Is innovative – uses technology to innovate
2. 
Makes a product useful – emphasizes the usefulness and functionality
3. 
Is aesthetic – beautiful and makes people feel good
4. 
Makes a product understandable – at best, it’s self-explanatory
5. 
Is unobtrusive – is neutral and lets user impose their personal style on it
6. 
Is honest – doesn’t promise things the product can’t deliver
7. 
Is long-lasting – is timeless
8. 
Is thorough down to the last detail
9. 
Is environmentally friendly – conserves resources and space, both physically and visually
10. 
Is as little design as possible – gets out of the way of the product

Typography

This is probably one of the most important things to be taken into consideration in minimalist design. Because of the lack of a big variety of visuals, colors and graphics, the content is what is to be noticed in the first place. The type of typography you choose in minimalism will either drastically improve your design, or screw it up. Use white space, play with headings, fonts and their sizes in order to make your content readable. Unless you have a website that people visit because of its photos, videos or other graphics, then content should be visible, clear and easy to find.

Distracting elements like too many banners, featured articles that don’t have a certain place, sharing buttons and feeds – all make up distractions that should be used wisely. Keep your fonts big enough for everyone to see, split them into blocks of text and take care when using color. Dark fonts should be used on bright backgrounds, but make sure for them to be not too dark; otherwise they might hurt your readers’ eyes while just skimming the text.

White Space

White space is something feared by some designers, having the bad feeling that space that could be used with some more content or graphics is easily lost by adding more white space. This is, of course a tricky thing to do – mastering how to use white space correctly. Using too much, will make your website look empty and wanting more content or other elements, while adding white space to cluttered websites is essential.

I figured that a lot of websites featuring news and different articles are not all good examples of white space usage. It is hard to take this feature seriously when wanting to add more and more to a website, but in the end nothing is impossible! In time, you will definitely get the know-how of white space and how to distribute it evenly on you website in order to set the elements and emphasize your content.

About Colors

Minimalist design calls for minimalism in colors, hence a reduced and smart choice from the big variety of colors is needed. This doesn’t imply only the use of black, white and some shades of gray. You just have to make up a palette of well-planned colors that will not affect the elements of the design you will include. There is a whole psychology behind choosing colors, and a different theory on how to mix them so that they will look good and look pleasant to the eye. White or pale backgrounds guide the vision to the elements you want the eye to focus on- the content.

I have already mentioned the importance of white space in minimalist design, it wraps around the content and makes up the perfect highlight; hence the eye will be skimming the text easier. Using just one shade for the background will set a certain tone and emotion you would like to create for the user when visiting your website. In the end it is up to you to decide whether you choose to adopt minimalism for your designs.

Opinions have always differed for this trend, hence if you are adopt this style for a client, you will have to be sure the client is ready to accept it, not thinking that it is less than he expected for the money he paid. If you are only doing it for the sake of the minimalist trend, it might end up looking bad. Minimalism is more of a state of spirit and an uncluttered mind. It is about emphasizing the important parts and concentrating on how to bring them to attention, letting out all the other distractions.

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