Embracing White Space: Minimalistic Web Design

Of the millions of web pages in existence today, only a portion of them embody the philosophy of “less is more.” In the days of slow internet connections and much less powerful machines, it was absolutely necessary to keep graphics to a minimum. As Internet speeds increased and as machines and browsers became more powerful, website design leaped into a sphere of rich content with splashy graphics and media. Recently, however, there has been a trend towards a minimalist approach and the term minimalistic web design has been birthed (or perhaps I should say rebirthed).

embrace white space

Not everyone is a fan of this approach. Some designers feel that minimalist design stifles creative talents, but others will argue that an effective and elegant minimalist design is highly creative and no easy task.

As with any form of artistic expression, minimalistic web design is deceptive in its simplicity. While on the surface a minimal website may seem basic the complexity and innovation lies below the surface. Flat, clean, spare design can actually give a website a great deal of advantage over those that take more of a bells-and-whistles approach.

How so? Consider these advantages:

  1. Immediacy of information
    Minimalistic sites, because of their spare design, are easily navigated and present their content quickly. Because most website visitors spend less than a minute seeking information on a web page, the content needs to be easily accessed. Visitors respond to a clean, attractive website that immediately presents the information they’re seeking. It’s all about functionality.
  2. Deceptively simple design
    While a minimalistic site may seem simple, it’s actually a compilation of several design elements that work together seamlessly. Effective designers focus on things such as layout, the choice of the right font, the balance of images, the use of colors, the right amount of white space, and rock-solid content.
  3. Relevant content
    Both the images and the text found on a minimalistic website are placed there deliberately. Because there are no extraneous elements on such a site, the content is relevant from the outset. A minimalistic site presents the who, what, when, where, why, and how of a business up front – and makes it easy for a visitor to connect to the company to learn more.

If you think minimalistic web design is an idea that will come and go quickly, consider for a moment that both Apple and Microsoft have fully embraced it. Apple’s complete overhaul of the visuals in the iOS 7 update shows up as sharper corners, more subtle drop shadows, fewer reflections, more solid colors, fewer glossy buttons, and the like. Microsoft’s Windows 8, while a little jarring for people at first, completely changed the look and feel of the operating system, particularly with regard to touch devices like tablets and phones. The mentality behind this kind of design is to place more focus on the functionality of an app or program rather than mirroring real life objects like buttons or toggle switches.

You don’t have to look too hard to find examples of minimalistic design on the web. If you’d like a few examples of great sites using this discipline, check out these links:

Whatever opinion you may have of the flat and minimalistic approach to web design, it is a movement definitely worth paying attention to. The attention paid to the psychology of the users’ experience makes websites more effective and visited more often. Because of the richness of the content, ease of use, and simplicity of design, this is a style of web and digital interface design that’s here to stay.