The Principals of Minimalist Web Design

Minimalistic web design has been the prevailing trend over the last decade. Its popularity has come from many factors, but it owes just as much to mobile web dominance as it does to changing tastes. Mobile platforms call for responsive design, which is much easier to do with a simplified design.

Despite its dominance in the design world, many people still aren’t fully aware of the difference between a minimalistic site and one that’s just plain. Web design and development is a tricky process, but here are the standard design principles for minimalism to get you started:

Balance: Perhaps the most important principle in any design, balance refers to the amount of stuff on the page versus the amount of space on the page. For minimalistic design, there should be far more space than stuff. It’s important to include large elements, whether they’re photos, illustrations or a bold logo, but it’s even more important to limit the amount of them. Typically, a minimalistic design will have one or three large elements, with smaller elements that fade into the background more, if they’re there at all.

Colors: You’re probably imagining an all black and white layout with nary a shade in between. But, just like adding too many shades of gray can muddy a layout, adding color correctly can enhance your minimalistic design. It’s not about the shades—it’s about how they’re used. To properly use color in minimalism, choose a palette of no more than three shades. Pick a background color (whether it’s the dominant color in a photo, or a solid background), a highlight color for your most important element and a tertiary color for unimportant elements.

Leave only what’s needed: This is the prime directive of minimalism. You need a main graphic to describe yourself. You need a color palette to designate what’s important on the page. You need negative space to balance the design. You don’t need Flash intros, 15 different font types, 92 shades of purple or a text wall on your main page. If something doesn’t have a functional purpose, take it away, even if you think it adds to the overall aesthetic.

When it doesn’t work: Minimalism isn’t for everyone. Sites that require a lot of information (such as with big-ticket items likes cars or swimming pools) will likely find that minimalism won’t meet their needs. Similarly, if a design relies on a gallery of images instead of a handful, minimalism may not be the right direction. You’ll know that a minimalistic design will work for you if you can conceive of one image that can represent your brand well enough that, supported by a paragraph of text, it could anchor your home page design.

The minimalism trend isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It’s too useful for mobile developers and too appealing for modern sensibilities to fade away. Learn more about it now, since you’ll be seeing it for at least the next decade.