The Fundamentals of Minimalist Web Design is a brief look at the areas that can help you to successfully conquer the roadblocks that tend to prevent us from being able to pull off this complicated yet simplistic style.
When it comes to web design, minimalism tends to be one of the most difficult styles to pull off for a lot of the online populous, though still an extremely popular one. Several among our ranks have admitted to being stumped by this approach on more than one occasion. So below, for the benefit of those tripped up on this path, are a few of the fundamentals that make this style come together effectively. That way, on your next project, you can try this approach once more with hopefully more successful results.
Nearly everyone knows the old saying less is more, but knowing it and putting it into practice are two completely different things. This is not to say that you should not be keeping this old phrase in mind as you work, just saying that even though this approach appears stylistically simple, it still requires some finesse to conquer. This should never be taken for granted.
Fundy 1: White Space
…and plenty of it. This is the first because it is the one that most people know and fall back on as the key to minimalist design. Which, for the most part, it is. White space is essential in making this style come together, but it isn’t a magic element that guarantees success. It still has to be employed in harmony with the other elements that you include in your project.
Quick Tip: Breaking Down Borders – In web design especially, we tend to box things in, throwing borders around them to cement this separation. When working for a minimal approach, you can keep your boxes, but try losing the borders around them. This helps to add to that open feeling, allowing the white space to flow through the design.
Fundy 2: Typography
Naturally you are going to want as much of a bare bones design as possible, which is going to put a bulk of the responsibility of the piece on the typography. So take steps to use extremely clean and clear fonts in your design. Ensure that the lines are sharp with no pixelation whatsoever. Scripts are also fine, as long as they are completely legible. Given the weight the type is carrying, the slightest compromise in its readability is too much.
Quick Tip: The Kerning Curve – Given that the white space is vital, keep the kerning and spacing of all of your type in mind as you put the project together. You may have to make adjustments to these typographical elements in order to maintain the uncluttered feel flowing through the design.
Fundy 3: Subtle Effects
Now with white space being a usual target for this approach many believe that this restricts them from including any other stylish elements, especially in the background. This is completely untrue. Textures, gradients, etc. are all more than welcome to enter this minimalist playing field but you want to keep them not only down to a small number, but you also want to only use them with subtlety.
Quick Tip: Mind the Balance – Anytime we design, we know that there is a balance of elements that we must maintain. However, when working in a minimalist fashion, this balance needs to be adjusted, heavily favoring the less is more mentality mentioned before. Always opt to keep it simple and down to as few added effects as possible.
Fundy 4: Clear Hierarchy
Like the typography, another area of your design that is going to have more of the brunt to bare than usual when working in minimalist arenas is the hierarchy. You need a completely clear hierarchy to be established since overall the content will be scaled down to only the most important elements. You do not want your users to suffer, and lose their way due to your approach of choice. Speaking of which, making sure that your navigation is clean and clearly visibly will assist with this.
Quick Tip: Big, Bold Headlines – To help tackle this issue, you can easily turn to the headlines used in the design. Through the use of large, commanding headers, you can visually guide your users throughout the project. Hierarchy handled.
Fundy 5: Grid Use
Now minimalism can alter some of the basic design rules, but one that remains completely unfettered is the use of the grid. The grid system is very important for minimalist design to ensure the comfort of the user. The content is already going to be out there flowing freely in ways that the users are not always used to and visually comfortable with. So do what you can to keep that comfort level in check. Employing the grid system can help.
Quick Tip: Feel Free to Think Outside the Box – Just because you are employing the grid system does not mean that you have to allow the design to still be ‘boxed in’. Get creative with the layout as much as you would like to, but for the sake of your users, keep the grid in place.
Fundy 6: Image Inclusion
Images are another element that some designers believe they have to remove from their pool of potential add-ins with this approach, but once again, this could not be further from the truth. Do not be afraid to use images to balance out the abundance of typography at all. You just have to be a bit more discerning with your choice of images. Not to mention that you need to be sure to use them sparingly.
Quick Tip: Don’t Break with the Theme – Be sure that whatever images you use, especially if they are photographs, you keep with the established minimal theme. Use images that are lightly filled and not overly cluttered in any way. Negative space based imagery works well in these instances.
The Fine Print
With those fundamentals covered and out of the way, there are still a few more pearls of minimalism wisdom left to impart. Do not mistake them as unimportant to this approach because they are not broken up into their own categories, these tips are still ones you should take away with you.
The Devil is in the Details – Detail is extremely important, all the way down to the individual pixels. When there is less clutter, any and every stray pixel stands out even more, catching the eye and distracting it from what is really important.
Necessity is the Mother of All Inclusions – Ask yourself the question, ‘is this element absolutely necessary?’, and only include those that are. It is all about serving the design, not flashing your skills. Besides, some would say it takes more skill to pull off a minimal design than it does your standard, fully loaded creation.
The Color Code – Use colors sparingly, not to mention extremely carefully. With less in the design communicating to the viewer, color tends to speak out more. So keep those associations in mind even more so than you usually would.
The Icon Connection – Do not ruin a nice minimalist design with the wrong choice of icons. Sometimes the icons that we use in our projects can almost feel like afterthoughts, as they tend to not fit as good as the rest of the elements included. Do not let that happen here. Use only clean and minimalist icons to match your design.
That is a Wrap
That tops off the discussion from this end on what to look out for as you head towards a minimalist web design project. Hopefully the post has proved helpful for any members of the community that have not had the best of luck with this approach and could not quite suss out why. Perhaps there was a point or two covered that you could put your finger on as the problem you ran into. Have you ever run into issues trying to pull off this style? What fundamentals would you have highlighted in this post?