Minimalist web design which is also known as stripped of web design is a popular design convention popular for its simplicity and ease of engagement. While less is more for almost every new app or website design, the principle is still ill conceived and least understood by the majority of designers. Stripping all unnecessary elements does not the only amount to an effective minimalist design, one needs to ensure usability and engagement as well. So, do you want to know the key principles that make minimalist design attractive and eye catchy? Well, here they are:
Negative or white space
Just browse through most popular and famous websites across the niches and you are bound to realise that lot of vacant or negative space is a creative ingredient in the majority of them. Yes, for some time now use of white or negative space has become a key web design principle.
The role of white or negative space around the visual objects is to grab the user attention and help it stay focused without any distraction. White is the most popular background colour which is used as negative space, though with contextual and appealing use other colours including dark backgrounds can create the same sense of harmony.
Apart from guiding the user’s attention and visual trajectory, negative space also helps to organise the on-page elements in a neat and visually appealing way. A website with more negative space around looks more organised and neat and thus it helps users navigating through the pages or buttons to get their required contents.
Negative space serves to manipulate the user’s visual flow. As a rule, the more negative space around an element, the more the eye is drawn to it – you can see how this is a powerful tool in a minimalist layout when you’re down to only a few, but powerful elements.
Finally, negative space helps to prioritise elements by organising contents and on-page elements as per the visual flow. For instance, if you want to make a featured area to showcase latest arrivals or latest contents you need to create a sense of priority by allowing more space and a sense of distance from the rest of the page elements.
Let us now summarise the key points to consider when utilising negative space.
- White is naturally the most useful background. But in case you opt for other colours and darker shades, make sure it looks appealing and does not compromise with the usability.
- Divide space proportionately to avoid looking like spam. It should not look like a vacant web page with bits and pieces of colourful elements here and there.
- Always focus on prioritising one content or one on-page element over another and accordingly provide space for them.
- Make sure the negative space does not make it look too glaring for the eyes. It happens especially when you use the darker background.
- Make sure negative space around CTA buttons and clickable links make them look more inviting and eye catchy.
Make sure you wireframe the design
How is a stunning website designed with the beautiful use of colours and contrast, space division that subtly guides user attention and engages users with appealing layouts and shapes? Well, most such websites follow the principle of wireframing. Creating a unique wireframe is the most important step for ensuring an interesting design. Let me tell you, creating a unique wireframe requires a lot of attention. You cannot come with such a wireframe accidentally and this is why we advise you to follow these steps.
- First of all, just make a priority list of most elementary content for your website and
- Now, just sketch out some lucrative wireframes on the basis of your list and then compare the visual hierarchy that works in each of them.
- Besides considering the importance of placing a priority content also make sure the whole thing looks appealing visually.
- Now, consider the brand aspect in all design elements of the decided wireframe.
Give priority to usability
More than the so called visual flair what matters most in website design is usability. In fact, the biggest draw of minimalist design is the stripped of focus towards ease of use for the users. While you have a minimum number of on-page elements your site can be easier to use and features and contents can be easier to access. But that is not always the case with many websites designed with minimalist principle. Even within minimalist designed websites, there are many that have serious flaws in respect of usability.
Then there is intuitive design, another popular design principle to make things simpler and engaging for the users. Intuitive elements coupled up with minimalist design elements can work wonder to ensure usability. Just when the user takes cursor or finger over buttons and icons, some actions can be suggested contextually. Similarly, upon onboarding, a user can be guided with a layer of messages about how the site works and where to go for his desired contents. Hovering effect on navigation buttons is another impressive way to make things easier to click and find.
Robust and beautiful pictures
Do you think minimalist design lacks emotion and warmth? Maybe, you have such an impression seeing stripped off websites with too less to show. But, the absence of visual appeal is a design flaw rather than a shortcoming of the minimalist approach. Besides other subtle elements, in minimalist design large and beautiful images can really play a great role. Large and appealing pics add some emotional and familiar touches to the site without really causing any distraction.
Now, just like elsewhere in minimalist design also hero header and hero images fit nicely leaving a visual mark on the otherwise clean and clutter free design of the rest of the website. Hero images which allow placing an image or an entire slider just close to the top of the scroll can give your site a really dramatic exuberance.
Now, let us come to the question of choosing your image. Can you use just any image that can fit into other types of websites with a different design approach? Presumably no, because the image should also carry the minimalist elements keeping in sync with the overall design. Don’t deck your photos with too many distracting elements. Rather choose an image with key meaning conveyed easily and without much fuss. Let’s face it, a design approach should be consistent in all elements and so it should be visible in images as well.
The navigation of a website holds the quintessential principles of a design and it plays a big role in the overall outcome of the website design. As far as minimalist web design is concerned, the navigation deserves to be simple and easily accessible. The flat web design which remains to be popular as a subversion of minimalist design, always makes simple navigation menu buttons look befitting and organically united. A complex menu breaking further into sub menu buttons is utterly foreign in this design. The most complex menu that you can use is a drop-down without a submenu.
A horizontal top level menu is the most common and simple navigation with few less important statutory links provided down below in the footer. For a better creative ease, you can use also a hamburger menu. Hamburger sign is pretty well known now thanks to widespread use of this navigation principle. Moreover, with a hamburger menu, you can clear the entire clutter of menu links in one area while making it always accessible just on the top right. Most important of all, a hamburger menu works great across all devices saving a lot of screen real estate.
You may try to cut off on all fronts when venturing minimalist design but the least you can do is with the words on your pages. Yes, you guessed it right. We are talking about the typeface. The typeface is the new kid in the design world to enjoy utmost attention and priority from all corners. Most modern typeface typically looks slim, stylish yet least distracting. Just look at the innovative typeface called San Francisco created by Apple and how it fits into the minimalist, elegant and sophisticated design scheme of all Apple websites and other iOS interfaces. Typically a typeface instead of telling “look at me” should say “look at this” referring to the content and make readability easier.
But beautiful typeface also has to be custom fit at times. Your brand image may require a twist in typeface to create a distinct identity in design. Well, when rolling out a custom typeface just do not miss the basic principle referred above. Instead of being too rocking to soak all the attention it should actually remain silent but effective for easy reading and usability. Lastly, avoid any typeface that seems to be heavy and cluttered on the screen.
So, here we are at the fag end of our exploration on minimalist web design. Actually, minimalist design is all about making less fuss about design while making the web design more effective and result driving. So, just without any extra effort try to fine tune your design with the above-mentioned principles.
Darshan Patel is a Lead Search Engine Analyst & Storyteller at Nimblechapps, a prominent website development company based in India. He believes in using a variety of strategy to create business’s online presence that delight and deliver.