Minimalism has recently extended itself into web design. The principles of minimalism are a bit more complex than “Less is Better”, but critics often consider that minimalism itself is overdone.
There’s no doubt that it’s cropping up as a frequent topic, and that the advocates of minimalism aren’t too “minimal” in expressing their views. There are technical issues, too, like how does SEO fit in to the concept of minimalism if it seems to be based on reducing content?
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The idea of minimalism is actually an artistic and design concept. The theory is that clutter is counterproductive, and that more really isn’t better, reducing the impact of content. The idea in its artistic form translates into single images, often without background, and in its design form into bare surfaces, and sparse environments with only a few features.
Web design minimalism is expressed in single image and low text environments. It can literally be a background with one image. This is a very economic design model, in some cases, but the criticism is that it’s also risking a very bland look, and if not done well is just plain dull. It’s not an attention getter, and definitely doesn’t provide the sort of information which is considered “grabber” material in marketing.
Web Design Issues with Minimalism
Few web designers would argue with the de-cluttering concept, but most would debate the idea that content necessarily means clutter. “Thou shalt not clutter” is basic enough as a design principle, unless you’re trying for a sort of design collage or “image riot” effect.
A minimal design with a logo may be very symbolic, but does it tell the user they’ve found what they’re looking for? The other side of the equation in the debate about minimalism isn’t an artistic argument. It’s a series of practical issues in relation to dealing with the requirements of websites:
- Can a form be minimal and still functional?
- How about an online shop, where the bland face of the checkout is arguably more minimal than any minimal design?
- What about the environment issues, and does creating a visual desert necessarily compensate the viewer?
Business Side of Web Design Minimalism
Will clients, who are paying for the privilege and have their own expectations, appreciate minimal formats? If they don’t, you as the web designer have the inevitable choice of explaining minimalism to the client, or doing the designs in line with the client’s wishes.
A Possible Middle-ground for Minimalist Web Designs
Ironically, minimalism includes at least one or two basic concepts which are in accord with normal design principles:
- Application of single images for products is actually good practice in visual marketing, and lack of distraction means the image hits the viewer unimpeded.
- Use of minimal but effective text is definitely better in terms of impact. The best hooks and catch phrases are usually brief.
The trick with minimal design is that you need to concentrate on search engine optimization to cover the marketing. Minimal design can create a good working base for development of design concepts, too.