The Oxford English Dictionary defines minimalism as art, music, or design that intentionally avoids decoration or adornment. Minimalism was a major movement that influenced the arts of the late 1950s, but today that influence continues in all areas of culture, even in how websites are designed.
While web designers have a vast array of tools available to make a website pop, these types of websites tend to turn more users away. The truth is websites designed with less flair that focus on the point why the website was built do convert more and perform better. Here’s why.
What Makes a Good Minimal Website?
The battle of web browsers that took place in the mid-1990s between Microsoft and Netscape is, in large part, what spearheaded the movement in web design. Web pages had to offer good information but load quickly and still be visually appealing while being accessed over a dial-up connection.
Today, those things are still true. But connections to the internet are now much faster due to cellular, land lines, and Wi-Fi. Web developers also have a wide range of improved tools along with improvements to CSS and HTML code, which have made web pages become very complex.
Minimalism in web design is a reaction against that complexity as well as a way to be competitive with all the internet pages created by both professional and amateur developers.
If a minimalist approach to design is done correctly, that clean design can result in less of a bounce rate, the time users spend looking for what they need on a page before going to another website. That requires that developers strip a web page down to its barest and most purposeful essentials yet retain enough visual information to convey a clear message.
Elements of Minimal Web Design
Unlike websites that use lots of layers, colors, imagery, and backend code to reel in visitors, developers who choose a minimal approach have to be selective about what to include and what to leave out. Here are the main elements web developers focus on when building minimal web pages.
- Negative Space (also known as white space) – Simply put, white space is the area between other visual elements for content emphasis on a page or website. For visitors, their experience of this design evokes information about a brand that suggests luxury, prestige, and even good taste.
- Visuals – In minimalist design, developers tend to use textures, icons, and graphics that have a flat, almost two-dimensional quality and shy away from shadows and gradients that might make pages look busy or glossy. Developers may also use “Hero images and headers” that is an oversized banner at the top of a web page.
- Dramatic Art & Photography – Art or photography can convey a host of information. The images chosen should have dynamic colors but shouldn’t be overwhelmed with too many focal points, so a visitor gets distracted from the reason he came to the website.
- Typography – The use of text elements should be bold but not complex. Developers will usually choose one or two fonts, perhaps at various point sizes, to make content items stand out.
- Limited Color Palette for Contrast – Although the primary color developers use on web pages is white to suggest minimal design, other colors can be used as long as it is just one color used for emphasis. Contrast can be suggested with the size, shape, location, and scale of the content object.
- Simplified User Experience – In order to enhance their minimal web design, developers will also minimize navigation aspects by hiding some menus to make the site look less clunky, so they’ll use “hamburger icons,” which may reduce navigation to three choices, or hide information under or inside animated icons, thus eliminating a traditional file menu. This choice makes space more open to other content.
These elements of minimal web design present advantages, if done tactfully. The problem with attempting a minimal design is that it can also present disadvantages. In fact, it is quite easy for a web developer to make a mistake in his design and make incorrect choices with colors, images, fonts, hiding too many menu items, etc.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Minimal Web Design
The primary reason why web developers choose a minimalist design scheme is speed, ease of use, and flow of information for visitors. Other advantages of minimal web design are ease of navigation, faster page load time with less bounce rate, and easy maintenance with less issues as minimal web design eliminates plugins and lots of heavy coding.
Additionally, minimal web design never really looks old or outdated, and a website with no other distractions is easy to remember, which makes the design succeed on many levels. But of all these advantages, the most important is that this type of design is very SEO friendly, which means more conversions, more traffic, and more business.
Some clients may see minimal web design as a disadvantage. For instance, they may see it as detracting from the services or features they are trying to promote, that the use of white space and dull colors make their website seem barren and boring, that the site might not accurately represent room for growth, nor illustrate that a creative brand has much to offer. In this case, clients might opt for a more complex and feature-rich website. The truth is, though, a minimal web site is scientifically proven to perform better.
Scientific Proof Why Minimal Website Design Succeeds
Sadly, patience is a trait that a lot of web page viewers lack. If visitors only give a web page 1/20th to 1/50th of a second to load, a beautifully designed website with lots of layers, colors, and bold content may never be seen.
It turns out that response is something we all develop to process information and it’s called a prototypical response for our familiarity with how things should look and feel. In web design, if a website presents content in a way that causes discomfort or is too complex, a visitor most likely will spend no time with it. There is also the concept of cognitive fluency and, probably, spatial recognition, that explains a reaction to website information.
If something is easy to understand, or the element we are seeking is easy to find, we learn to adapt to that quicker. Minimal websites seem to contain these areas. Even a group of PhDs found complex websites less appealing, according to a recent joint study conducted by three leading universities.
A minimal website design strategy seems to deliver the performance, engagement, and conversion that clients like as long as they are sure this is the type of site they need. Developers should talk to clients and keep the following ideas in mind when building a client website.
They should research the audience for the website, base their site around the elements used on other successful minimal sites, use their own colors, logos, typefaces, etc., utilize cognitive fluency but retain their own original approach. With these points in mind, a successful website is possible.