With minimalism in web design more prominent now than ever, it’s important to look at the style in its entirety and what makes an effective minimal portfolio site.
In the early days of web design, minimalism was more a constraint than a design choice. As web technologies have developed over the decades, it’s opened up opportunities to integrate quite complex design styles and visuals. Minimalism, in a way, curtails the use of this technology in a visual sense and questions each and every stylistic addition to a website. As a design direction and philosophy, minimalism extends beyond simply stripping back the visuals of a website. It questions the layout, website content, type choice, and every other element requiring design input.
The concept around minimalism in web design has to consider usability at its core. Without doing so, it blurs the lines between websites as a visual, and as an interactive entity. Question yourself constantly when designing with a minimalist direction. Does this take away from the usability of the website? Am I sacrificing usability for visual appeal? It’s important to consider.
One common design choice made in minimal portfolio websites is to replace a standard navigation system for one which extends from a hamburger icon – something more commonly associated with mobile navigation designs.
While the visual appeal can be enticing, it’s important to consider that each time a user wishes to switch pages, they now have to click twice. Many users will scroll down past the hero or fold section without even noticing such an icon. When the navigation links are clearly laid out, the user can be fully aware that they exist.
Another common mistake it to use very small text for content. While once again very appealing from a visual standpoint, it serves no benefit to the end user, and can even exclude users from an accessibility standpoint.
The same applies for using overly light font weights. While they may look great on an expensive display, a user may have legibility issues on a standard or dim display, or in an older browser with less advanced font rendering.
It’s in cases such as these that the effect on the end user must be considered before and alongside making stylistic design choices.
Minimalism from a stylistic viewpoint is an attractive concept. By stripping back unnecessary visuals, it allows the focus to be solely on the content, and shifts the focus to color, typography, imagery, and iconography. It’s the perfect direction for showing off a product, written content, or in this case, portfolio work. In an era where interaction design is at the forefront of web design, detail can be added in other ways which don’t distract from the content.
There are two main ways of applying minimalism to a design. The first is through a general minimalism direction. There will still potentially be lots of color, icons, and whitespace, and the way it will be applied will not be overly extreme.
The second way is by questioning each and every element’s existence on the website, and proceeding to remove all superfluous elements. This borders more towards brutalism, but would be the most true way to create a minimal portfolio site.
The impact on the development aspect cannot be overlooked. Going back to just five years ago, most web designs were still incredibly graphically-intensive. From a development standpoint, production time was longer, loading times were longer, and the development accuracy was often off as designers sometimes created overly ambitious styles which were unrealistic in production. Every aspect of this has improved with minimalism and meanwhile, when implemented properly, user experience does not tend to suffer.
When considering your next portfolio design, be sure to consider usability and style as one to produce an effective design. Minimalism looks set to continue as a prominent design philosophy through 2017 and by considering these values at the core of your design, the end product should be both usable and visually impressive.
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