In almost every way, I'm a minimalist who favours an uncluttered & crisp aesthetic. I find it overwhelming when there's too much going on and my attention is being pulled in a million different directions. This is especially true when it comes to website design. I spend all day, every day online, pouring over all sorts of websites and I can decide within a few seconds whether or not I "connect" with the design of a site. As such, I always encourage people to go for a clean and crisp website design over something flashy and trendy. Last week we talked about the pros and cons of dark website designs and today's article with carry on that path.
Glorifying the Clean Design
Recently, clean and minimalist designs have been put up on a pedestal and are considered the most desirable website style. Experts and users alike both agree that a website should adhere to the following guidelines:
- Clear and easy to read
- Limited in the number of widgets
- Little to no advertisements
- Content presented front and centre
- Simple site navigation
Clean design can mean a lot of different things depending on the person, but it is almost always simple, fresh and welcoming. The opposite is not "dirty" - instead, people consider it to be "cluttered". Clean looks appeal to a wider variety of tastes than websites that are stuffed with filler and trinkets. Right or wrong, minimalist styles have connotations of being more sophisticated and intelligent, whereas busy and loud designs usually do not.
Clean sites come down to easier communication between the users and the content your business hopes to convey. More than ever, people are distracted and short on time, which means that they are much more likely to understand something simple and accessible. If they have to filter through too much clutter, their usability is challenged and they will probably navigate away from your site.
We've talked before about how your business' website is a reflection of your brand, style and online identity. As such, the look and feel of your site is extremely personal and totally up to you. Perhaps you enjoy animated gifs, excitable design features and bright colours - that's okay! If you're keen on funky widgets, large icons, and general stuff, feel free to use them so long as they are consistent with the other ways your present your business. Just know that those are personal preferences that aren't shared by everyone.
While you are never obliged to pick a subtler design, they are favoured for a reason. Clean website designs are so popular because they appeal to almost everyone.
Opting Against A Clean Design
Let's say you've weighed the pros and cons of a clean design and ultimately have decided that the style isn't "you". It's totally fine to pick a design that breaks the clean & minimalist rule but there are things to consider. For example, are you okay with what a busy look says about you and your business? If visitors to your site are put off by your loud design, will that bother you? If they have difficulties finding or navigating content, will you be bothered by those complaints? Do expert opinions on what constitutes "good" or "bad" web design hold any weight with you?
On the flip side, maybe you decide that you have so much information to share that it just isn't possible to pick a clean style. Many publications, such as newspapers, have this problem - there simply isn't enough room on the page to convey all the information without being a little cluttered. While there are "magazine" style designs and layouts, sometimes it comes down to sheer volume of information and having to display it one way or another. Know your business and it's needs when picking a design.
Half and Half
There's always a middle ground a maybe that's where you'd like to land. You can keep a jazzy personality on your site while keeping basic clean principles in mind. The left/right sidebars are notorious for being cluttered so this could be a great place to start simplifying. Consider cleaning up some of the widgets, moving towards a gentler colour scheme (i.e, pick 2-3 colours for your site instead of 6), or sticking to only one font across your site. You can always try out a new theme or template and revert back if necessary.
Another thing that clean websites have in common is that they favour white space. This style is more likely to be longer on the page (meaning the user will have to scroll more) because when you increase the space between sections / items, they will stand out more. When a user has an easier time focusing on one thing at a time, thanks to physical separation on a page, they are more likely to understand your web content and business. Don't forget that your goal is to keep visitors on your site as long as possible and by adding lots of white space to your site, people will keep scrolling through the pages and stick around much longer.
What are your thoughts on clean designs? Do you favour them on your site or have you opted against them? Did you ever make the switch from one style to another? Leave us a note in the comments!