I’m often reminded of how many things I own. Not necessarily things that I value, or things that I love. Just things that I have in my possession. Usually it’s all for one legitimate reason or another (like for work). Then I began to wonder how I could organize something better so it looked like I had less. Which eventually evolves into, “Why do I really even have it to begin with?”

My name’s Tyler, and I’m a hopeless minimalist.

Hopefully not forever, but presently, I am. I’ve grown an attraction to minimalism and the state of only having what is needed to accomplish your goal, and it has greatly affected my design work as of late. But similar to my struggle to proclaim true minimalism in my daily life, my ability to achieve success with minimalistic Web design has been void. There always seems to be something more, something extra that to me screams “this totally needs more definition, more contrast, more depth.”

So I’ve decided to put together a little list here that helps me hunker down and keep my focus when aiming for an original, minimalist-style Web design, and hopefully it will help you along your path to simplistic beauty as well.

Don’t force it.

As Web designers, we all have a tendency at one point or another to be more focused on including what we usually implement into a layout, instead of what we necessarily need.

Avoid that. Analyze what you and/or the client need to have as part of the design, simplify and condense as you can, and then move forward with your creativity. I may or may not get hunted down for this, but sometimes creativity goes too far and strays us from our end goal when not properly guided.

Don’t over-think it.

Exactly what it says. No elaboration or thought necessary.

Keep things separate, and only show what’s pertinent.

Minimalism is about simplicity and utilizing the bare minimum to accomplish what is necessary. Only include what is relative to the current page. Show proper separation between elements. Eliminate clutter.

Use a grid.

I naturally try to align elements in a loose grid with all of my designs, because that’s what I’ve been used to doing for so long now. But with particular relation to minimalism, a strict grid can be an unbeatable tool for helping achieve levels of distinction and importance while keeping layouts simplfied. Guide your visitors with a clean, well-aligned pattern. Your clients/visitors will thank you later.

Hierarchy, hierarchy, hierarchy.

After you’ve solidified what needs to be included in a design, structure its hierarchy appropriately. What is most important? What needs to take precedence? Where will the visitors eye lead them? Brutal contrast and sizing is our most effective weaponry in minimalist hierarchy. Use them wisely, and efficiently. In fact, do some test runs with “non-webbies.” Make them call out what elements they see, in order, and collectively decide with your team what alterations to make.

When you’re looking for something else to fill space, it means you already have everything you need.

Don’t let comfortable tendencies eradicate your minimalistic attempts. Instead of safely putting a block of color with a border around a sidebar to differentiate it from a content area, or sticking to a common three-column layout that you normally default to, rely on your familiarity with the principles of design and produce something original, but simple. Contrast, space, emphasis, variety and rhythm can easily achieve everything that you need to properly relay the information across that is necessary to your audience.

Less is more.

Cliche, I know. But it’s the simplest description of the minimalist concept.  Accomplish more by using less. Simplify until function dissipates. Break all of your ideas down until one more step will hinder the significance of your goal.

These are just a handful of the thoughts I tend to talk myself through as I’m going into any project with minimalistic intents. It’s not suitable for every project, but it’s effective enough to be considered for most. Add it to your arsenal of techniques, and join me in the “hopeful” journey to mastering minimalism on the web.

Here are a few examples to inspire you:

Beckin Design

Area 17

Yuna Kim


3 responses to “Minimalism on the Web: Tips for Tough Beauty

Posted by Dani

Tyler is the best in the world. hands down.

Posted on March 13, 2012 at 10:43 pm

Posted by Dean

We agree!

Posted on March 13, 2012 at 10:46 pm

Posted by Brennan

Now if only I could convince my wife to become a minimalist!

Posted on March 27, 2012 at 4:14 pm

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