03 Aug 2009

Why I Went Minimal

I’ve always told people that my design skills aren’t rooted in illustration or complex elements, but in typography and layout. This probably stems from the fact that I’m pretty much a terrible illustrator (and that I don’t have a Wacom Tablet or a scanner). Go figure. So it is that when designing logos or websites I prefer using carefully chosen typefaces and lots of negative space. It hasn’t always been this way for projects I’ve worked on, but I’m learning more and more that my best work has been when I (seemingly) put the least amount of effort into it.

OneSimpleGoal.com - A Daily Goal to Get Things Done!

This has certainly translated to the way I design and build web applications. My pet project One Simple Goal and this blog both show how much I love to leave the fancy colors and gradients out of it. Now, I’m definitely not saying that fancy colors and gradients are a thing of the past, or should be shunned. Matt Mullenweg’s blog (screenshot below) is a perfect example of beautiful complexity, and proves that complex designs can be very attractive and still usable. I’m merely stating that I feel like I can provide my best service when I design for a minimalistic user experience.

Matt Mullenweg’s blog is complex AND awesome (and not designed by me, I might add)

A few weeks ago I stumbled across a good post from SingleFunction.com on examples of extreme minimalism in web design. The post detailed a longish list of sites who they felt provided a service in a powerful way: through minimalism. Some of these were even over the top for me, but I could definitely relate with the idea or passion behind some of these sites.

I believe the most important thing you can do while building a web app, or designing your site mockup in Photoshop, is to ask one question: “Does everything on the page have a purpose?” Do all of the menus, toolbars, widgets, and design flourishes do well to accentuate the message you are trying to convey, or the action you are trying to invoke? Do they hinder your message in any way? Being too minimalistic can be just as bad as too complex: your users won’t know what to do, they’ll be confused, and will likely become another home page exit statistic in google analytics. Striking that balance is truly an art, one which I’m still striving to achieve with each new interface I build.

Are you a minimalist?