Operate on the less-is-more philosophy

When it comes to Web design, less can equal more. Here's a look at this minimalist philosophy.

This article originally appeared as a Design and Usability Tactics e-newsletter.

By Jim Kukral

Some Web designers operate on the minimalist philosophy. This may largely be due to the fact that the Internet has become an informational megasource. Also, it's becoming more common to use various online tools and applications to deliver that information. Minimalist pundits argue that minimalist design is the only clear and easy way to present this massive amount of information and function to the masses.

You can break minimalist Web design into two categories:

  • Technical construction
  • Look-and-feel

Can you have a minimalist design by using only one of the categories mentioned above? Opinions vary, but the general consensus is yes, you can. Can you design a site using both categories simultaneously? Absolutely—you should strive to do so.

Technical construction

There are direct advantages to designing your code (e.g., DHTML, XML, and CSS) and site structure from a minimalist point of view, including:

  • Greater accessibility for compliant-type regulations.
  • Seamless content delivery to other types of alternative browsers and screen-readers.
  • Super-fast load times.

By separating your design from content, you can make it much easier to perform, update, and adjust the way your site functions without starting from scratch.


From a look-and-feel standpoint, minimalist designers adhere to the "less is more" philosophy. The content, rather than the graphics, becomes the focal point.

Joshua Gooden, creator of Tell-Me-True, a Web-based tool that allows anonymous interaction between friends, says he approached the construction of his project with a minimalist view. "As an application, Tell-Me-True is minimalist because there needed to be a focus on what the user is trying to accomplish. The options needed to be available and apparent at all times, or the application would fail," said Gooden.

"User satisfaction is highest when users don't have to guess what to do," he continued. "We are very clear about what the goals of the site are. . . Send anonymous questions, get answers, and maybe find out a little about the company. There is almost no content, and the content that is present is to reinforce the idea of the application."

The bottom line

Modern culture is on the verge of information overload. Soon, almost every electronic device created will be able to access some type of extraneous data. The question you need to ask yourself is this: Will my information be available to those devices? Or, consider this possibly even bigger question: Will my competitor's information be available to those devices?

If you'd like to see examples and read more about minimalist design, please visit the Minimalist Web Project site.

Jim Kukral has spent the last seven years working in the trenches of Web design, development, and usability for Fortune 500 clients as well as mom-and-pop companies.

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