Minimalism or Laziness?


If you've been around web design for at least a day, you'll notice that there are tons of "minimalist" designs out there. They've been around for years, yet they are still growing in popularity. In fact, minimalism is supposed to be a web design trend for 2010.

What is the reason for the "minimalist" style's popularity? It's easy. Anyone can slap together a quick design and call it "minimalist". It could technically still be called minimalism, but it's worthless if it's not done right.

It's Not Memorable

Let's get this out of the way first. It's almost impossible to brand a minimalist website. Extremely simple user interfaces have already been taken by Apple. They've established themselves as the company with the minimalist designs. And nobody's going to take that from them.

And because minimalism is so simple, there are much fewer possibilities than with other styles. Of course, the good minimalist designs will have some way of standing out from the crowd, but most of them look exactly the same.

Minimalism means removing the unnecessary elements of a design, but it's those unnecessary elements that set one design apart from another.

The best minimalist designs are for websites that do one thing and that do it well. Let's use Google as an example. Back when it did only one thing, it was, and still is, a simple search box on the page. The design only worked because searching was the only thing anyone ever used the site for.

It Won't Work For Everything

The one place on the internet where you see minimalism the most is in designers' portfolios. Minimalist designs are most appreciated by creative types. They're usually building their own websites for themselves, so they can make it look the way they like it.

That designer probably wouldn't use minimalism in the design for, say a site that sells games for ages 5 to 10. They would always need to consider the audience of the website, and build it around that specific audience.

Minimalism Applied to Blogs

Take a look at the WordPress themes directory, and notice how many minimalist designs there are. Not only are there tons of them, but they all look about the same. Because they still follow the standard blog layout, there isn't much room for difference. And a blog with an unusual layout is (usually) not too good for usability.

I think we can all agree that readability is an important part of blog design. A common tip to improve readability is to add whitespace to the page. That's when people take it a bit too far. They see the "white" in whitespace, and associate that colour with minimalism.

Make Minimalism Good Again

Don't get me wrong, I think that minimalism can look nice, if it's done well. Minimalist websites don't all have to conform to certain standards that end up making every website look exactly the same.

Don't just throw together a bunch of divs with black text on a white background. Try out some different colours and see what you like. Try including a nice image, to draw the reader's attention. The important thing is to be creative with it, and

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  1. February 22, 2010

    True words, Eric. The only thing I disagree with is the reason for the popularity of minimalism. I could imagine that a lot of people are sometimes just fed up with bloated 3 column blog designs that have banner ads on half the page, so they go for a more simpeler solution where content comes first. But I agree that there are pages, where a minimalist design does not make sense at all. Great article!

    • February 22, 2010

      You're probably right. I'm also not a fan of cluttered blog designs.

    February 22, 2010

    This article is absurd. Clearly you don't know what the hell you're talking about.

    • February 22, 2010

      Hey, it's just my opinion on minimalist designs that aren't done right. If you disagree and would like to educate me, then go ahead.

  3. You got it right there.. They are just the same. I think in the internet world there are only few that are uniquely made, That's my opinion