Professional Web Design Techniques for Minimalist Layouts
Minimalism is a very interesting topic because it is the idea that less is actually more. Designers are frequently thinking about how to trim down excess fat off website layouts. This idea of minimalist design is certainly not brand new, but the traits have been adapting for years.
Additionally there have been many advancing trends along with responsive design which has paved the way for a new minimalistic style. Minimalist designers are able to focus now on beautiful interfaces, navigations, and content displays. The modern era of computing and web browsers has connected the Internet together like never before. I’m hoping these ideas will provide at least some value to web designers who are interested in minimalist techniques.
Reduce the Negligible Elements
I feel that designing a layout is all about keeping focus on the main “idea”, while also offering navigation and alternative methods for moving about the website. The problem is how that main content could pertain to videos, image galleries, blog posts, practically anything.
The design portfolio of Jonatan Castro is extremely elegant and demonstrates my point beautifully. You are immediately presented with a small slideshow of icons and previous digital artwork from his portfolio. The only navigation seems to be a couple icons in the corner, but as you hover over the logo it will also display further contact details.
Using a technique like this to hide your content off-screen is brilliant. It will save room on the page and makes everything appear less cluttered together. Then it’s super easy for your visitors to open and close the different panels at their own will.
Stick to Designs that Work
I am always using the phrase “stop trying to reinvent the wheel”. It’s perfectly applicable in software development because there is so much information already available. Why should you attempt creating some new flashy layout design which may ultimately flop? Instead build off code that already exists and has been tested for bugs by other developers.
Minimal web design is super easy when you understand what you’re building and how it should be presented. Project Fedena is an open source platform for schools to manage students and class information. Their website is very basic and has nothing more than navigation along with base content.
But what you should notice right away is how their website just works. You can go to the homepage and easily find information you’re looking for. And even more interesting, each webapp is perfectly adapted to run on their website theme. No matter if you’re on the blog, forums, or another alternate page it all looks uniform.
Big Visible Block Content
Typical layouts in this style do not use many flashy graphics or banners. The background is often one shade or pattern, and there are not always dividing lines between page sections. Using large blocks of content is a surefire way to grab attention anywhere on the page.
The example of Haik Avanian’s portfolio is fantastic for this exact purpose. When first landing on the page it is clear how the navigation works and how to go through his portfolio library. Each block is actually a link which leads to an internal project page with more info.
The design is really friendly and inviting for users. This is the type of design sentiment you want to leave behind with minimalist layouts. You will find the best examples in portfolios, but you may apply these trends onto literally any type of website. Startups, social networks, businesses, e-commerce shops, the list goes on and on.
If I could point out one more excellent example the W+K Tokyo website. Their initial design focuses on block content around text and headers. But if you visit the portfolio works page you’ll pick up on the block content theme even stronger. This method works so well because every piece looks organized and set in place. Definitely try out some other similar solutions in your projects to see if anything feels right.
Content over White Space
This is a theory which does not have any objective solution, as design trends change based on the project needs. But I do want to say that minimalist designs are not about ultimately removing as much content as possible. Lots of white space is good, but it’s not required.
I think of design agencies like Appex who have created a minimalist layout coupled with large blocks of scrolling content. They are using a fixed header toolbar which scrolls along down the website. Not uncommon and actually works really well to keep the rest of your layout clean.
But their design also uses horizontal blocks which I love. These are useful to separate key objects in your webpage, such as portfolio entries or user testimonials. The horizontal blocks can be distinguished through borders or background colors. But often you can just leave them alone to cascade down the page nicely.
There is room for white space in the argument, as too much content all together is difficult to read. Designing a super detailed website layout such as Appex requires a common balance. Not everybody can find this natural balance – but don’t be afraid of trying! Minimalism is one of the greatest design techniques for practicing user interface/experience skills on the web. Build a layout that people want to use and your content will sell itself almost organically.
It’s difficult to bring up minimal web design without offering a few examples. I have always been a fan of bare minimal web design, and my interest has only grown over the years. I feel that many user interface designers follow this same path.
To wrap up the whole article I have put together a small showcase of minimalist web designs. These websites should act as inspiration where designers can pinpoint good interface ideas. Minimalism is all about improving the user experience with less clutter and more focus on content. Keep this in mind as you peruse some of the items in the gallery below.