Design trends have to keep changing, otherwise they wouldn’t be trends. The current trend towards minimalism in website design is partly in response to the jam-packed designs of recent years, which often tried to visually assault site visitors into taking some type of action.
According to the article The Characteristics of Minimalism in Web Design, from the Nielsen Norman Group, minimalist design has the following characteristics:
- Flat patterns and textures
- Limited or monochromatic color palette
- Restricted features and elements
- Maximized white space
- Dramatic use of typography
The goal is to focus the user’s attention by removing distracting design elements and many minimalist designs do this very effectively (see the article link for examples). However, the authors advise caution:
Just as flat design is a reaction to skeuomorphism, minimalism is a reaction to maximalism. In both cases, we strongly advise a balanced approach. A minimalist design strategy can be a powerful tool, but only when it’s framed by the needs of your users—minimalism for minimalism’s sake alone doesn’t help users.
Leaning towards minimalism can have other important benefits when building a site using responsive design. For websites that must scale from a mobile device to a large desktop monitor, having a simple layout and fewer graphic elements to manage makes the job much easier. And for the increasing number of people who view sites primarily on their mobile devices, minimalist designs can be much easier to navigate and use.
The most important part of the design process happens before before decisions are made about how the site will look. In that earlier phase, the focus is on how the site will meet the needs of its users. The eventual graphic design should always be in service to those needs. Each graphic element has to earn its keep and those that don’t add value should be eliminated. Following this approach will often result in a site that is more minimalist by default.