The saying ‘less is more’ is so true when it comes to design. Research has shown that users are most attracted to sites that have clean designs. Minimalist design has proven to encourage higher user engagement, better usability, and more aesthetic appeal.
What is minimalist design?
Minimalism is a practise that aims for simplicity and objectivity. Simplicity, simply put, is the quality of being easily understood and design-wise it is mainly to be uncomplicated. To have a website that is objective allows visitors to judge the brand or product without bias, which is ultimately what you want.
Many designers consider minimalist design as primarily aesthetic, which is not necessarily the case. In fact, minimalism is all about doing more with less; it’s about usability and economy.
The emphasis with minimalist web design is on simple colours and uncomplicated design choices that promote functionality and a sense of calm.
The elements of and reasons for minimalist design
A minimalist design tends to include more whitespace, better typography, grid layouts and less colour. It is not necessarily easier or simpler to design, though. Although the design has less elements, you still need to ensure that it includes same or even a better level of usability with less interface.
Negative space is a cornerstone in minimalist design. White, black or very dark colours seem to be a popular background choice, but some designers also use full-colour backgrounds with simple navigation. Negative space manipulates the user’s flow. The more negative space there is around an element, the more attention is drawn to it. It’s all about content-first design. Negative space also keeps the user from feeling overwhelmed with too many elements drawing attention and creates a sense of luxury. It is a great tool for especially interior-type content.
If you find plain, negative space too impersonal, large and vivid photographs also work well for minimalist designs. It adds a touch a familiarity without overshadowing the foreground. Using these kinds of photographs in your design allows you to create emotional connection and atmospheric settings, while keeping things simple design-wise. It could be quite a difficult task, though. To keep to the minimalist design trend, use high definition photographs that have ample negative space like expansive skies, empty white walls or similar.
Websites and words go hand-in-hand and therefore the typography you choose play a very important role in the design. With the rest of the design being extremely simplistic, the emphasis is relocated to the font you use for your words. Pretty, sharp and even custom typography creates a lovely focal point for your site.
A blank, white canvas is a minimalist designer’s dream as it is the perfect platform from which you can create contrast. Contrast allows you to emphasise certain elements, but also to create recognisable visual hierarchy.
Simple navigation is so important. If you have a minimalist design, the navigation is expected to be just as uncomplicated, which is why many designers opt for the hamburger icon. Still, you need to understand the functions behind navigation design, as your users may not be familiar with the hamburger icon, which will make navigating your site difficult for them.
In the end, minimalist design – as will any design – is all about visual harmony. Still, you don’t have to place all content in the centre or line everything up symmetrically. Approximate symmetry allows for items to be placed at different levels, in different sizes and in different colours on the screen, while keeping the visual weight on either side the same.
Combining minimalist and flat design
Something that works very well with minimalist design, is flat design. The two techniques collaborate well as they have similar characteristics in visual planning and use of content. Combining flat and minimalist design allows you to create a visual masterpiece while keeping your design focused on the content of the site.