Minimalism and web design

This article is based on an excellent piece by Nielsen | Norman - you can read the full article here. I'm summarising the article below whilst adding our own take as web developers as to the issues that this design approach can bring up.

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Barcelona Pavilion (reconstructed) by Mies van der Rohe

Minimalism from the fields of architecture, fine art and music have, obviously, all influenced the web. Google's minimalist home page of 1999 is essentially unchanged; the simplicity of the page aids the visitor experience. However you must take care that such an approach is right for your website.

Points to note:

  • Consider reducing or removing elements on a page that don’t meaningfully contribute to a visitor’s needs
  • Don’t simply cut out features - really consider the needs of your visitors, then try to make tasks as brief and simple as can be.
  • If you stick too rigidly to a minimalist framework, you risk ending up with a site that has poor discoverability due to the lack of information on key pages.
  • Minimalist interfaces can help with sites when viewed on mobile devices, provided that the navigation system is comprehensible
  • However, if you concentrate heavily on style over usability, then you risk alienating your website visitors.

We love it when a client wants a minimalist website. However, we have found that:

  • It takes longer to design and develop
  • It is more difficult to retrofit additional features, so the brief needs extensive development to ensure that all the desired features are captured early on in the process
  • We insist that clients consider in depth the needs of website visitors as part of the process
  • We also insist on setting overall goals for the site - what do you want to happen when people visit? What do they want to happen? 
  • We also need to consider findability, that is, how will people find you? Search engines? Email links? Directory links? Different methods can imply the amount of written content per page, which in turn has an impact on the design and layout

Once we have these in place we can start to design an appropriate site with the needs of visitors and client firmly in mind. 

One sector that uses minimalism more than most is architecture. However, having looked at several hundred architects’ websites, we have found that they tend to err too much on the cleanness of the layout and less with findability or, we in our opinion, usefulness and usability. Developing a brief before considering the visuals would greatly help with the sites’ clarity and usefulness. 

We’d love to help you out with a minimal design for your site. If you would like to see how less is more then call Tim on 0115 914 5839 or email hello@volute.co.uk and we can arrange to have a chat.

Tagged in: Architecture Business