The Pros and Cons of Minimalistic Web Design

Categories Web Design

Minimalism has become the latest trend in many web designs, particularly in the area of online business and service professional websites. However, unlike many fads, this trend has more than a few practical benefits that make it ideal not just for the short term but also for long range website decoration and appearance.

If you’re wondering about how to best keep a minimalist framework in mind for your site or just want to find out a bit about the pros and cons; see how they compare, then read ahead.

Where and When to Apply Minimalism

The honest answer to this title would probably have to be “anywhere you can!” The reality is that minimalism in site design is almost always a good practice to follow. So long as your website is able to maintain easy to use, intuitive functionality, there should be no problem with keeping its look and function as clutter free as possible in all cases. The basic definition of a minimalist design is one which strips down a website to its bare essentials of needed function. Since in most cases your visitors aren’t coming to your page for the sake of admiring its look, you’re almost certainly alright in maintaining a website that follows even an intensely minimalist layout and function.

As a basic step, you should keep four key points in mind when putting together a concept of how reduce your site to minimal essentials:

Objectives: What are the main objectives of your website, will stripping any particular thing or number of things away affect or interfere with these main objectives?

Comprehensive Usability: Will your minimalist approach and ideas remove necessary usability that makes navigating and using your site convenient and fully functional. One potential error that must definitely be avoided is taking minimalism to such a deliberate extreme that you purposely make your site “mysterious” and hard to navigate due to a lack of clear and descriptive features. Minimalism should never interfere with easy usability.

Appearance: Will a given minimalist approach be so extreme that it creates an overly empty looking design? For example, a page made from the barest elements of HTML would be extremely minimalist, but it would also look rather archaically ugly by most definitions. Simply, you should be asking if a particular degree of minimalism would create ugly sparseness or elegant sparseness.

Balance: You need to also ask yourself if your chosen degree of minimalism will give the proper visual weight and spread to page features; any design, regardless of how minimalist, has to evenly fill out the spaces on a page and shouldn’t cluster objects or leave gaping bare spots that suggest more emptiness than an elegant Spartan look.

At the very least, a step in the direction of quality minimalism would without a doubt require that you remove any overly heavy but completely pointless bells and whistles such as massive flash introductions, auto-loading videos and automatic audio such as music that activates when the page loads. All of these should be excluded from any website and should be absolutely avoided in even a minimally minimalist domain. More simply, avoid anything that will make your site load slowly; this is another major error in any case, minimalist or not.

With the above factors kept in mind, you can judge for yourself what your ideal level of minimalism is based on your own subjective preferences.

A Couple of Examples

If you run a website that’s devoted to online gaming, geared towards a male audience between the ages of 13 and 30 and hosts all the latest news, gossip and trivia in the industry, then you will probably want to add a certain splash of color, decoration and design that fits this niche. Your site still shouldn’t be so cluttered with unnecessary features that it’s hard to navigate or slow to load but it can probably get away with a more “splashy design that incorporates a lot of extras such as large advertising spaces and banner art graphics.

On the other hand, a website that belongs to a professional photo journalist could probably be made to look very professional and serious if it incorporated a deeply minimalist, bare bones design that maintains only all the strictly vital features for page function in clear view while being elegant at the same time. In fact, such a website design -with lots of white space and a prevalence of simple black and white combinations—would probably be absolutely ideal because it would create an environment in which attention is naturally focused on the portfolio of photos

A brief weigh out of the positives and negatives to be found in minimalism is a good way of seeing what may be your best option.

Pro’s of Minimalistic Web Design

There are many pros to a minimalist web design and they easily outmatch the cons. Considering some of the most basic pros, a minimalist site is much easier to keep problem free (less complexity); it loads faster (fewer elements and applications) and is less prone to going out of style with its look (simple designs tend to be fad free).

Furthermore, one of the key pros of minimalism is that the site design itself tends to create an environment that lets your readers focus much more easily on what you’re offering. In fact, you can specifically use your minimalist site to guide readers very effectively right in the direction where you most want their eyes to fall. This leads to higher reader retention, higher sales conversion and a better memory of what they saw when they visited your page.

Yet another major pro of minimalist sites is their much more professional look. Most minimal designs naturally project an impression of deep seriousness and dedication to whatever the page is about. You can use this to your advantage immensely in situations where you’re trying to make a larger than life impression on certain target readers.

Additionally, by creating your site with the bare essentials of elegant design in mind, you’ll open up a large amount of space for what’s really important; your content. Whether this may be photos, text or videos, the surrounding sparseness will lend greater attention to it and let you create something of genuine value more easily.

Cons of Minimalism in your Website

Really, there are very few to mention, particularly if you’re working on a well laid out plan for minimalism.

One possible con is what could happen if you exaggerate the effort you’re putting into simplicity and take your site to a level of sparseness in which it looks unfinished, cheap or like you have very little to say. However, this sort of impression can be avoided even on some of the most minimalist websites through the use of a few stylized touches, well spaced out design elements and a good dose of rich content.

One possible further con of minimalist websites is the potential for them to be insufficient for your needs as your site grows. You may have begun with a basic and simple website because what you had to offer or say was basic, but then your business or web presence later expands dramatically and you’re still stuck with a very simple website.

However, this is a con only if you didn’t plant ahead a bit when starting with your design. S simple site isn’t necessarily an inflexible site and you can avoid the problem of insufficient site functionality by building elegant minimalism over a heavy duty website framework that can be scaled up down the road easily and quickly.

Steven Chalmers is a respected journalist with years of experience in the technology field. When he's not covering Intercall, you can find him training for his first marathon.