The How and Why of Minimalism

If done correctly, minimalist design is one of the best and most effective approaches to creating beautiful websites.. Not only is the target audience subjected to less clutter and noise, but you can use colors, textures, and fonts to create a very simple yet very memorable experience for the person viewing your site.

Of course, switching to a minimalist design will mean that you only have a select few pages of information, but the result is desirable on multiple levels. Creating a mobile-friendly site will become loads easier, your audience will find your content easier to read, and your site will look more professional.

Read on to learn more about why minimalism works, and how to apply this beautiful approach to your designs.

 

Why it works
Less is more

This famous saying by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is the ultimate representation of minimalism. These three words of wisdom really get the message across, while being concise and to-the point.

Likewise, a de-cluttered website can get your point across more efficiently. Many designers/developers use this ideology and “prune” their content, effectively cutting away useless, less visited, and unimportant pages, leaving sites left with higher quality content.

Not only will your website look clean, it will also be higher-quality and more refined.

Subconsciously sensible

Subconsciously we are growing more and more defensive to clutter and distractions. Every day, we receive dozens, if not hundreds, of business advertisements through spam, mail, newspaper inserts, internet ads, radio and TV commercials and more. This surge in advertising has caused people to learn how to avoid annoying ads.

Flipping channels during commercial breaks or clicking the “Back” button from an ad-filled website has never been easier. As web designers, we should keep in mind that not only is extra ad clutter on our websites distracting to users, it is also bad for SEO.

Responsive

All good minimalist websites have a unique wireframe and a really good grid system. If utilized correctly, both of these can translate to a painless and easy transition to the responsive and mobile world.

With less content, fewer blocks and design elements, and a whole lot of whitespace, it won’t be hard to move things around for mobile device screens.

Furthermore, mobile users tend to have less patience. They are busy people who are either on-the-go, limited by data plans, working a hectic schedule, or all of the above. Getting concise, clear, and useful information as fast as possible is usually their expectation, so why not give it to them?

Lighter is better

Having only a few pages with a minimal amount of text will mean a lighter website. Not only can this make the task of updating, and maintenance easier, it will also speed up your site.

The less content, widgets, and design elements you use, the less data has to be transferred, making a faster, lighter, and hence more enjoyable, user experience. And it helps with the data limits issues for mobile devices.

 

How to convert to minimalism

It’s no secret that implementing a minimalist style is much easier if you already have a pretty good foundation of design itself. A solid understanding of grids and layouts, and an expertise and finesse in applying that understanding can go a long way when designing minimalist websites, however a lack of these things should not stop you from learning this beautiful style.

If you are interested in adopting a minimalist approach for your designs, there are a few simple guidelines to follow.

First of all, you must minimize your content. Throw away as much as you possibly can. If you can remove it and it doesn’t significantly undermine the main message you are trying to get across, it’s probably junk.

One good piece of advice for those attached to their content is: Temporarily hide the content for 30 days. Don’t go back and read that content or remind yourself about it. After 30 days if your life is not in a state of absolute crisis, you are free to throw the content away.

One way to go about getting rid of and/or simplifying content is to review the usual culprits of lower-quality content:

  • Second and third level navigation pages : you realistically shouldn’t need more than 4 or 5 pages (unless we’re talking about an e-commerce site or some sort of technical site).
  • Recent feeds, Popular feeds, Comment feeds, Facebook and Twitter feeds: Anything that ends with “feeds” is almost definitely unnecessary. Help your readers focus on what’s important.
  • Any sort of counters: Social ‘like’ counters for your main page, ‘Total visits’ counters…really? No need to become anti-Social Media, but a few simple buttons should suffice.
  • Extra graphics: One small to medium sized graphic element per page is enough. Keep in mind, however, your graphic should neither overwhelm your content nor take too much attention away from it.

Finally, when your content is minimized and you have stripped your site to the bare minimum, you must style it. Remember, minimalism is not about looking plain or boring, it’s about focusing your attention on the essentials. Having an attention-grabbing and consistent layout is key. The proper colors, typography, textures, and whitespace are also essential to your minimalist goals.

 

Textures, colors, and fonts

Converting to minimalism doesn’t have to be a chore. Think of it as a way to give your site a fresh look with new textures, interesting colors, and captivating fonts. After all, with less content to worry about, you’ll have more time to tone and master the look and feel that will attract an audience, and keep them.

Textures

Using textures in web design is the greatest thing since sliced bread. When used in conjunction with appropriate colors, fonts, and a simple layout, textures can really make your website shine.

If you are completely new to textures, it would definitely be worth your time to read up on how to create them in Adobe Photoshop, how to apply them, and the different types of textures.

Colors

Similarly, colors present an invaluable medium to present your website. Take caution, though, as colors and their associations can vary from culture to culture. Yellow, for example, may represent mourning when used in Egypt, while it may represent courage when used in Japan. With minimalist type designs, or any design really, having only 2 or 3 colors on your website is a good idea as this provides a consistent and simple experience for the user.

Fonts

Finally, good fonts are truly vital when using a minimalist design.

Of course you don’t have to splurge on dozens of fonts; you could consider creating your very own fonts. Some designers even go to the extreme of having the typography become the sole visual effect of their website. While this is an interesting trend, it can be harder to pull off as it requires a complete mastery of typography.

 

Summary

This article has only scratched the surface when it comes to the principle of minimalism and its uses and benefits in respect to web design. I hope it has caused interest for those who are still not applying some of these techniques.

Although minimalism doesn’t work for all websites, the principles of discarding low-quality and or less valuable features of your website can be useful for all web designers and developers. Less really is more.

 

Article by: Mohammad Shakeri
http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2013/07/the-how-and-why-of-minimalism/

Technical Details of Responsive Design

There are some gritty details to creating the perfect responsive design that may not be completely apparent at first. Here are the details in this great article byWebDesignerDepot.com.

Today, there’s even a mini debate going on regarding whether responsive design is here to stay or whether it’s just a flash in the pan. Only time will tell, but for now, it’s clear that responsive design strives to make the user experience as comfortable as possible.

Responsive design is a web design philosophy that focuses on creating sites that give users an enhanced viewing experience. This includes features such as effortless navigation and reading, and a minimum of browser resizing, scrolling and panning. All of this takes place across a range of different devices, from desktops to smartphones.

Since this web design approach is still in a fledgling state, you may not be totally clear on what responsive design is all about. Is it more about seamlessly displaying content across multiple platforms, or is it mainly about helping businesses build more attractive sites to increase their sales through a better user experience?

Mashable has already gone out on a limb and called 2013 the year of responsive design. While that remains to be seen, some basic aspects of responsive design are standards that will never go away. Here are the most important responsive design facts to familiarize yourself with.

 

There’s a difference between responsive design and mobile design

You’d be forgiven for thinking that responsive design and mobile design are one and the same — but they’re not. Sure, responsive design does create websites so that they both respond to a browser’s size and are mobile-friendly, but responsive design really is whole web design. The problem with referring to this web design approach as mobile design is that it’s inherently limiting, which does a disservice to the approach itself.

The most effective responsive websites may be viewed as they were meant to be, across a range of resolutions. This includes everything from the usual 1024×768 pixels to the 1920×1080 displays and everything in between. Sites like these also look splendid on tablets (both retina and standard displays), as well as on smartphones. If a web designer looks at responsive design solely through the context of mobile, then he’s potentially missing out on a broader user experience.

At the same time, mobile is a really opportune starting point for the entire responsive design discussion. It’s been the norm to begin with a mobile scheme and then expand this design to additional sizes as a responsive website is developed. Lots of designers believe it’s simpler to grow visuals rather than to minimize them.

 

Quality and image size are priorities

If there’s a rule that web designers ought to follow, it’s that image quality is a whole lot more vital than the actual number of images. The reason is that a low-quality image simply doesn’t look attractive in any size. The time it takes a site to load an image is almost as important as the size. Mobile users will agree with this because they have limited bandwidth with which to contend.

What’s a web designer to do? Simply reach a smart balance between load time and quality. This includes scaling images with CSS height and width properties, steering clear of loading full-size images, and optimizing images for the Internet. Prior to uploading, it’s highly advised to crop any images and save each picture at the smallest size possible, as long as it still maintains sharp, visual quality.

Check out Sony USA’s website. Note how all the images are super sharp in quality, no matter what size they are. Once you visit the site or refresh the homepage, also note how fast the images load. You don’t have to wait more than a second for everything to come into focus extremely sharply.

Designers have many choices when incorporating images in a responsive setting. They can use only a few images; lessen the use of images within mobile-sized schemes; permit images to mask themselves in mobile surroundings; or utilize various file sizes and versions. These choices will work effectively, although some developers are against hiding images, because the user will still have to load the images in spite of them being unseen.

 

Let’s talk about responsive type

Type shouldn’t be one size fits all. One kind of font that looks appealing to the eye on your desktop may be horrid on your smartphone. Typography must follow the same rules as other aspects of responsive design.

The most important aspect of responsive typography is the line length. For smooth readability, type ought to be optimized based on the width of the screen. The rule of thumb, for desktop websites, is that between 50 and 75 characters a line is ideal; for mobile devices, just between 35 to 50 characters is ideal.

Type must also be easily read vertically. Lots of sites utilize a line space that’s up to 140 percent of the screen’s point size for bigger blocks of text. If the screen is smaller, more space should be added.

Even the specific typeface that’s utilized is significant. Fancy fonts and novelty typefaces have the ability to look visually appealing on bigger screens, yet they’re hard to read if the point size is small. These sorts of fonts should have lots of space between them. When you work with smaller sizes, it’s easiest to utilize normal sans serif styles and even strokes.

On Hardboiled Web Design’s site, you can see a lot of these principles being followed, making for good responsiveness. Note how its line length of text on a desktop — while on average greater than the ideal recommendation of 50 to 75 characters — is comprised of a typeface that’s clean and easy to read. In addition, the line space is also greater than the point size of the font. On mobile devices, the site’s responsiveness performs even better: On an iPhone 5 display, the number of characters per line was approximately 67, which is just a bit over the ideal rule of between 35 and 50 characters.

 

Don’t forget about navigation

When it comes to the user experience — which is one of the most important factors that web designers should think about — navigation is right at the top of priorities. Navigation has to be smooth and efficient to ensure a comfortable user experience.

Effective responsive design must ensure this by paying extra attention to the specific width of a given browser. A site that uses responsive design well will lay out its site navigation in different areas, all dependent on the browser’s width. One of the best examples of this is Food Sense’s site navigation.

It would be a mistake for responsive design to scale the site navigation to larger proportions on devices with bigger screens.

 

The takeaway of responsive design

So now, when you hear web designers talking about responsive design, you’ll know that it isn’t just about making a website look good and run smoothly on smaller, mobile screens. You’ll know that this design approach is based on the principle of making websites of all sizes provide the most optimal experience to the user — no matter what they’re using to view the site.

Responsive design is still a relatively new concept, at least to most people who just view websites on the internet. That’s why so many people still can’t agree on what makes responsive design…responsive design. Is it about seeing everything properly on mobile screens? Is it just about load times and high-quality images that will please the eye? Is it about a clean design and easy-to-read typefaces?

It’s all of that and more. Those are just the fundamentals of this web design approach, but responsive design is still evolving and changing, so chances are good that additional elements will be considered, too. In the end, it’s about enhancing the user experience, because no one wants to deal with a website that’s slow, blurry, hard to read, cluttered or difficult to navigate.

 

Author: Marc Schenker
http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2013/06/must-know-facts-about-responsive-design/

Responsive Design: What It Is and Why It Is Important

Ok here’s the deal:  When it comes to technology, you have to be willing to progress with it, or you will get left in the dust.  Websites are are no different.

One of the more recent progressions in web development is responsive design.  Notice I said ‘recent’.  It’s not new, but it is becoming more noticeable to end users.

What exactly is responsive design?  To put it briefly, it’s an approach to building a website that ensures your site looks good on any device, no matter what kind of device you are using.

How does it work?  Eh, don’t worry about that part, we’d prefer you not fall asleep while reading our blog.  But if you must know, there is code you can place in your site that tells the browsers to check for a screen size and then display the site a certain way depending on the screen size.

The more important question is:  Why Should You Care About Responsive Design?  Well, that’s a long answer.  But here are some practical reasons why you and your customers care about it that will help answer that question:

  1. If you are on a mobile device, you don’t have to zoom in and out with your fingers to read text (and it makes it easier to read while you are driving…ehhem, I mean while you are waiting for the light to change).
  2. Your most important content is immediately brought to the attention of your users.  Having a responsive design forces you (the site owner) to make decisions about what your customers should absolutely see when they visit your site.
  3. Responsive design is flexible and fluid – so no matter what the device is (tablet, phone, laptop, desktop) your site will look professional and clean.
  4. Having a responsive design is impressive to most people.  While they may not go out and tell their friends at dinner that they “just saw the most amazing responsive design website” what they won’t say is “Company ABC has a terrible website.”
  5. It challenges you to stay current with your website design, layout, trends, and most importantly the content.

 

For more information about Responsive Design, checkout these articles:

  1. http://coding.smashingmagazine.com/2011/01/12/guidelines-for-responsive-web-design/
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Responsive_web_design