The Shift Towards Minimalism in Web Design

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( — January 27, 2016) — Over the past several years, the web design industry has undergone a major systemic change. Whereas a website was once judged on its ability to incorporate valuable features and showcase cutting edge plugins, the key to success now lies in the ability to do more with less. And while it was once viewed as a fad, this shift towards minimalism is looking more and more like a permanent move.

Minimalism and Web Optimization

It’s been proven time and time again that the longer a website takes to load, the less patient users become. With minimalist design, not only will users process content more quickly and readily, but websites will also load quickly – improving reader retention as a result.

But how do you achieve a minimalist aesthetic? With a layout and color scheme that refuses clutter. Consider these best practices.


Some designers erroneously believe that whitespace is wasted space. Not so! Elements on a page need breathing room. Oftentimes, clients will vie for adding new design elements to take up space – ultimately to the detriment of the site’s usability. Whitespace actually helps different elements work together while also defining separate areas of a page.

The best way to preserve whitespace is to avoid adding extra elements in the first place. When you don’t put them in, there’s no need to take them out. Eliminate excess information and visuals in the planning stage. If it doesn’t directly contribute to the mission of the website, it doesn’t belong.

Check out the homepage for design firm Si Digital for a great example of whitespace, which also uses parallax scrolling to engage readers and provide more information.

Color (Or Lack Thereof)

Color needs to be used strategically in minimalist design. Avoid using extra design elements or graphics; instead, use a subdued or monochromatic color scheme to draw attention toward, and not away, from the content you present. You can still use bold colors to accent important elements, but take care to accent sparingly or you’ll risk clutter.

Consider the homepage for Thrive Solo, a time management tool for freelancers. Using just two colors – sky blue for the background and white for the text – the site draws attention to the written content and images to communicate the benefits of its product.

Simple Layout

Cluttered layouts make for confusing navigation and little direction. If you’re unsure how to simplify, consider a grid layout to organize your content. Grids work because they place homogenous content on a page in an orderly way without adding visual clutter. They’re also a useful tool if you’re trying to develop a responsive website.

An example of a site that makes intelligent use of grids is the homepage for Thread Check, Inc., which lays out attractively photographed gauge products.

Final Thoughts: Why Minimalism?

The shift toward minimalism actually started several decades ago, in an avant-garde art movement that emerged as a response to World War II. Viewers and artists alike found themselves gravitating toward art pieces that offered breathing room – a respite of sorts from the chaos of the rest of the world.

Minimalist web design is, in many ways, much the same. Minimalist websites give viewers a little bit of breathing room in the age of info overload, and they’re scientifically proven to be more effective as a result. In one study, for example, researchers found that users rated “visually complex” websites “less beautiful” than simple ones.

While different demographics found different traits aesthetically appealing, the consensus across the board was that the more visually complex a website was, the lower its visual appeal. Simpler websites don’t require the brain and eyes to work as intensely to understand the information they contain. With these findings in mind, it’s not difficult to imagine minimalist design becoming the norm in web development.