Stripped To The Bone: Minimalist Web Design

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery

mondrian Minimalism is an art movement, born in the twentieth century, which describes various forms of art, music, literature, design and architecture, where the work is reduced to the bare essentials.

In web design, minimalism refers to the use of the smallest amount of images, colors, shapes, values and lines. The site is stripped down to the fundamentals required to convey the message. Minimalist web designs generally rely on type and simple shapes to do the communicating. You won’t find heavy textures and lots of images on these sites, and although the design could be considered “simple,” it’s not necessarily easy to pull off an attractive design in this style. The mantra, content is king, is applicable to all types of web sites and minimalism certainly lends itself to this idea. With few distractions on the page, the visitor’s eye is drawn directly to the content.

Here, for your viewing pleasure and inspiration, are nine examples of minimalist web designs.

Daring Fireball

daringfireball

Jan Reichle is an art director and cinematographer.

janreichle

Mark Boulton Design

markboulton

Tink London

tinklondon

Naked & Angry is an ecommerce site which keeps the fluff to a minimum.

nakedandangry

Shaun Inman (of sIFR fame) shows that minimalism doesn’t mean lack of color.

shauninman

Full Cream Milk does use some imagery, but it is simple and repeated throughout the site.

fullcreammilk

LG & F
lgf

And finally, you might have seen these guys before. They’re an up and coming outfit – something to do with searching the web.

clip_image020

Minimalism is obviously not everyone’s cup of tea. I personally find these sites appealing because of their lack of clutter and easy navigation.

What do you think of this style of web design? Have you seen any minimalist design sites that you really liked?

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  • JdL

    I don’t think any of those examples even qualifies as “design.”

  • http://www.deanclatworthy.com Dean C

    I feel there are better examples of subjective design than this, but I find DaringFireball incredibly boring and monotonous. I guess it’s a good job design is subjective ;)

  • Anonymous

    how more minimalistic can it be than this: http://lab-au.com

  • http://www.pixeline.be pixeline

    how more minimalistic can it be than LAb[au]‘s new website: LAb[au]

  • Benjamin Dobson

    I really like this sort of design, because it makes it so very easy to find the elements you’re looking for. However, the first few times I looked at Daring Fireball I just dismissed it because of the colour scheme. I have to say, it looks much better in the black-on-white of my RSS reader than the white-on-blue of the site.

  • The Dude

    Please, people. Before posting something like this do a little research on what Modernism and Minimalism is. You will quickly see how ignorant this post is.

    This is weak.

  • Andy

    Be interested to see any links to creating a really simple minimalist web design with CSS (i.e. just clear type, nice font and perhaps a heading) I have a bunch of old HTML pages that I’d love to freshen up with a new CSS giving it the whole Web2.0 clean look. :-)

  • http://www.patricksamphire.com/ PatrickSamphire

    On the other hand, they are kind of … boring. :D

  • just_passing_by

    A website that resizes my browser window is an absolute no go. The guys who did that lab-au thing ought get their fingers slapped. And without JS their website is about 2m wide and hardly navigable or offering content. Minimalistic it might be, but for me it’s – sorry – crap.

  • mathieuf

    I’ll give a positive response to Minimalist! These designs are great, because I can find what I want to find! Too often a web site is busy with decoration and content is lost.

    Boring? Are you viewing the web site for entertainment or information? Designers need to understand the audience. Too often the design is for design’s sake, not to help the user, not for usability, not to get your point across. If the web site is for entertainment, great! But if you are selling something or wanting to communicate information, don’t lose it in the noise of presentation.

  • shmlco

    Actually, I tend to think that http://lab-au.com pretty much sucks, from the moment it took over my browser window and expanded it full-screen. A classic example of a “mystery-meat” rollover navigation scheme.

  • Minimalissimo

    Quite a refreshing list, Jennifer! Thanks.

    @pixeline: Lab-au.com is maybe, if even, minimalist in its use of colour. But apart from that this is not a minimalist site at all! The excessive use of interactive and navigational elements brings the usability to a low-point. I read on your website that you were actuallly responsible for the design of Lab-au.com… I hope at least your client was happy?

  • http://gametorg.net babafisa

    I hope this was a very interesting post thanks for writing it!

  • Hurgh.

    None of these are really that great. When the history of this decade is written, minimalism will be tagged as “the inexperienced college interns answer for their lack of ability”. Just like the bird in Kung Fu Panda said, it’s only special if you say it is, and never has there been a better example of this than minimalism.

    There are uses for a stark looking site, but how dare anyone refer to it as creative. It hardly clocks in as “design”. Many throw basic concepts like visual flow out of the window. Like that second one, good lord.

    When designer’s resumes come across my desk, if I see the word “minimalism” anywhere, unless it’s in an effort to disparage it, I throw it in the garbage. I can get minimalism for 8 bucks an hour out of India.

  • lee johnson

    I have started with the same idea : http://www.seodesignstudio.com its still a work in progress !

  • Grim_Weeder

    Minimalism is an art-form but none of these seem to fit that form or any type of art for that matter. Daring Fireball is more simplistic than anything. Google makes a good focus on content (all of the spider-infested internet) and, again, is brutally straight forward. Ultimately minimalism is not about how much (content, gaudiness, etc.) is presented but how effectively it is used (see Demoscene).

    On a side-note the art displayed to the right of the initial paragraph I would not consider minimalist (on the grounds that it does not evoke emotion or thought (it doesn’t do anything) it is comparable to calling a puddle a minimalistic swimming pool because there is less water).

  • http://edgedirector.com/ plumsauce

    Thank you very much for the reminder of the quote.

    Just finished adding it to my faq.

  • level09.com

    while these examples are “minimal” , the time spent on them is also minimal.

    you could have brought a better examples of “attractive minimal” designs like :

    http://brilliancy.eu/

    http://www.subtraction.com/

    http://5thirtyone.com/

  • Oliver Ruehl

    I only make minimalist sites.
    We spend too much time on computers anyway.

    http://www.oruehl.de/portfolio/

    (created with a really simplistic CMS: Indexhibit)

  • http://www.patricksamphire.com/ PatrickSamphire

    Boring? Are you viewing the web site for entertainment or information? Designers need to understand the audience. Too often the design is for design’s sake, not to help the user, not for usability, not to get your point across.

    Information doesn’t have to mean monochrome dullness. It’s not like the only choices are flash-filled, flashing monstrosities or grey ‘minimalism’.

    These sites, with the exception of Full Cream Milk and Google, wouldn’t give me information, because they would put me off by their dullness.

    Fine if I’m not the audience of them, but I have to say, they are not selling me as a way of providing information effectively.

  • http://www.crearedesign.co.uk TomBradshaw

    Creating a minalist site can take as much effort as creating an in your face design. The minimalist style is appropriate for many sites such as google, where the focus is on functionality rather than being in your face.

  • ro0bear

    Nice clear designs (mostly), very user focused. *Thumbs up*

  • http://blog.thenetgen.com agentforte

    I think something needs to be said of professionalism. I like a combination of minimalist (no unneccessary images or lines/borders) and design (nice colour, gradients, etc) to give a professional look while still having users focus on content.

    I started with minimalist when I designed the TMetrix website then added some design to try and make it look more professional. Would you consider the TMetrix design minimalist?

  • Tink London

    Tink was built in a day or so as a rush job to get some work up. I’m perfectly happy with the result and it has been well recieved by the target audience. Not entirely sure why it’s in the same list as a high volume search engine or exactly what your minimalist design criteria are.

    Cheers

    Arthur.

  • A La Carte Graphics Servcies

    Loved “Daring Fireball” for its understated elegance, a real triumph in the use of the space, fonts, copy, color. Even the name is intriguing. It is rare and refreshing to see that kind of design nowadays and personally, I miss it. Really easy to navigate, too. A good solution for that particular client.
    The Jan Reiche home page is a real eye-grabber, very bold; great use of the logo. But I could not stay interested in the rest of it. The Micheal Boulton site was effective in my opinion becuase the site designer let the man’s exquisite work speak for itself. Nicely done, good photography, too. I stayed at that one quite a while.
    As for the rest, I ended up just breezing through them. My conclusion is that minimalism works best when it is juxtaposed next to the typical overly-graphic site, it’s like a breath of fresh air. However, a little bit of minimalism goes a really long way, and can see how it could become banal after a short time. It’s a great tool for organizing a space and as a starting point. Takes me back to my design school days….and yes, that was quite a while ago now!
    Thank you for sharing your minimalism selections, I truly enjoyed this article.

  • http://www.dangrossman.info Dan Grossman
  • karlosb

    Some lovely minimal designs here! :-) I’m always a big fan of this approach, although I find it hard to incorporate into my clients designs sometimes :-)

  • http://www.historycommons.org/ Black Max

    Minimalism works very well when (if) the designer understands that EVERY SINGLE ELEMENT becomes critically important, and they all must work efficiently, harmononiously and beautifully together. Font choice, imagery choice, structure, color, everything must be carefully thought out and done well. It’s a delicate balance. As many of the above examples show, using a bare-bones, stripped-down design doesn’t necessarily achieve anything besides boredom and lack of function.

    Leon Paternoster does minimalism well, though he’s actually gone for a two-column layout and three (!) images. So does our typography and design guru, Jon Tan. Interestingly, both rely on Georgia as a nice, decorative serif text font to give their sites some visual interest.

  • Dorsey

    If you had to choose between two design/philosophical extremes, which would you take? Compare google and godaddy, and let us know which is actually best at solving the problem or answering the question that brought you there.

  • CAD

    Minimalist is not for everyone but it does conform to the lowest common denominator. What many tend to forget is that the Internet is a global phenomenon. Not everyone is on a fast connection or have the latest monitors (CRT’s are still used worldwide). Many are behind a network, unable to update their hardware and software, tired of getting the newest plug-ins, or has accessibility issues. After 17 years on the net and designing for 15, I’ve found 90% of my clients (including myself) don’t have the time to hunt the information down on a website. The old “40 sec” rule, simplicity and common sense still applies especially when your target market/industry is a universal one.

  • Anonymous

    Black Max seems to be the only one who understands te difference between minimalist design and barebones design. The latter often is hardly design at all.

    You cannot add extra graphical elements to a true minimalist design without affecting its conceptual, visual entity.

    So the Google interface is just a stripped down, simple interface and it’s perfect for the job. But some extra graphical elements wouldn’t change that. I even wouldn’t call Google “design”, let alone minimalist design.

  • Jack
  • http://charlessweeney.com Charles Sweeney

    Less is more.

  • Chisel

    I’ve watched the minimalists design slowly take over the web space over 15 years. We always struggle with how much design should be on a page versus straight info. and nav. There always needs to be a balance of these and a respect towards your audience.

  • http://www.historycommons.org/ Black Max

    Black Max seems to be the only one who understands te difference between minimalist design and barebones design. The latter often is hardly design at all.

    Thank you, kind sir or ma’am. One thing I didn’t say in my earlier comment: true minimalist design is hard. You’re trying to do more with less, as Charles Sweeney said upthread, so every single design element has to be considered, judged, and weighed, not only on its own merits, but in conjunction with everything else.

  • http://www.rachelreveley.co.uk artemis

    @Anonymous

    how more minimalistic can it be than this: http://lab-au.com

    That site is terrible, it had the cheek to resize my window while I was still using it elsewhere.

  • Smilyan Pavlov

    This is my design blog (unfortunatelly for you it is in bulgarian). I tend to consider it minimalistic in design terms -> http://www.design.smilyanp.com/