Principles Of Minimalist Web Design, With Examples


Minimalism is achieved by reducing a design to only the most essential elements. Expressions of minimalism span multiple disciplines, as well as other art forms such as music and literature. For website designers, though, minimalism can be intimidating and difficult to master.

But anyone can master minimalism. Essentially, minimalism is about breaking things down to the barest elements necessary for a design to function. It’s about taking things away until nothing else can be removed without interfering with the purpose of the design. Below are a number of principles of minimalist design, as well as an exploration of current trends and additional examples.

You might also enjoy our previous article “Showcase of Clean and Minimalist Designs1.”

Less Is More

“Less is more” is probably the most well-known catch phrase of the minimalist movement. It was popularized by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in describing the minimalist aesthetic.

In Web design, less is more is achieved by using only elements that are necessary to a given design. Using less to achieve an effect that’s more than the sum of the design’s parts is the goal.


North Kingdom2
Simple, straightforward typography and a bare use of color make for a design that’s aesthetically pleasing but minimal.


A simple design that puts content above all other elements. The simple double-border above and below certain areas helps to delineate the content without cluttering the design.


Lindvall A&D6
The simple line-drawing of a chair, barely visible if you’re not looking for it, exemplifies the “less is more” ideology.


Your Neighbors8
Another simple design, this one with many more graphics.


Simple navigation and graphics add to the overall minimalist feel here. The graphics are bold enough that they have visual impact without adding clutter.


Omit Needless Things

In their book The Elements of Style, Strunk and White coined the phrase “Omit needless words.” It has been adapted to minimalist philosophy as, “Omit needless things12.” In other words, don’t include unnecessary elements in your designs.

Think of what’s necessary to the content and function of your website. Then focus on only those things, and omit anything that doesn’t directly contribute to either the content or function. Remember, though, that certain design and graphical elements will directly affect the readability or usability of your website.


A simple gray background, white borders around the images and simple typography are the minimum elements necessary for this page. If any were removed, the website would not have the impact that it does.


Lachlan Bailey15
A single image and vertical navigation are as simple as it gets.


Sarah Hultin17
Another example of a single image and vertical navigation.


Aleksei Dubrovsky19
This website goes a step further and omits any images, opting instead for just a header and simple navigation.


Subtract Until It Breaks

When crafting an extremely minimalist design, try subtracting elements until the design stops working the way it should. When the website is on the verge of breaking, you know you’ve achieved the most minimalist design possible.

Remember that “breaks” is relative in design. Technical functionality is only one way to gauge whether something is broken. Usability considerations are equally important. Make sure your website is still user-friendly and delivers the experience you want visitors to have.


A minimalist design with a single-column body and three-column footer. If any element was removed, the website would be less user-friendly.


Works in Silence23
The elements of this information architecture, including the borders between sections and posts and the white space between columns, are vital to keeping everything visually pleasing, organized and readable.


Brett Arthur Photo25
Another great example of using a minimum of elements.


Danny Guy Photography27
The black background sets this apart from many other ultra-minimalist designs. Notice the full-screen option in the lower-right of the image.


Brian Danaher29
Another website that opts for a single column and bold typography.


Every Detail Counts

In a minimalist design, every detail has significance. What you choose to leave in is vital. A border around an image, the color palette, the white space, every part becomes important to the overall look and feel of the website when the elements are few.

Think of the feeling you want your website to give visitors, and then decide on the details that would impart that feeling. While many designers view minimalism as one size fits all, there is still room for different emotions based on individual design elements. A minimalist website can easily be funky and modern, fresh and clean, reserved and sophisticated, elegant and refined, or anything in between, based solely on its details.


Executive Edits31
Details like the oversized typography in the header and the thin borders between elements make the Executive Edits website stand out.


Christine Szczupak Photography33
The stylized arrows and subtle drop-shadow are important details that increase the visual appeal of this website.


Kha Hoang35
The effect of the details here—circles, gray box, red typography—definitely add up to a lot more than the sum of the individual parts.


The Rules of a Gentleman37
Everything from the thick black border at the top to the mix of typography make this website elegant and sophisticated.


Ryan Willms39
The spacing and arrangement of content here, along with the elegant typography and simple lines, make for a fresh design.


Visual Craftsman41
This has more detail than many minimalist websites, particularly with the border and other subtle graphics.


The subtle colored box behind the content sets this design apart.


Color Minimally

Color takes on added significance in a minimalist design. Choosing the right palette or accent colors is vital. Many designers opt for a simple black, white and/or gray palette, but minimalism has room for any color in the rainbow.

Like details, color becomes critical with fewer elements. Pay attention to the meanings of the colors you choose and how they interact with one another.


Kyle Sollenberger Design45
Subtle pastel colors set apart certain content here.


Pixelbot Webdesign47
Bright colors stand out against this otherwise black-and-white design.


The shades of blue are subtle but highlight special areas of this otherwise black, white and gray design.


Second and Park51
Muted colors work well in a minimalist design, particularly when combined with gray.


A simple website with a gray background and colored accents.


Another simple design with colored accents.


Magenta is a popular accent color for minimalist sites.


Thinking for a Living59
A website with a lot more color than many other minimalist websites, but the palette is well thought out.


Another colorful website with a great palette.


White Space Is Vital

White (or negative) space is the backbone of any minimalist design. What you leave out of a design is just as important as what you put in. White space is critical to emphasizing certain elements over others.

White space “makes” a design minimalist to a large extent. Without it, you’d end up with a grid design or grunge or some other style that’s not truly minimalist.


Rikcat Industries63
Ample space between elements keeps this website from feeling cluttered.


Another example of a ton of white space around elements.


52 Weeks of UX67
Filling every column on the page is not necessary, as evidenced here on the 52 Weeks of UX website.


Metro Gallery69
The Metro Gallery pays a lot of attention to white space, right down the spacing of letters in its category headers.


Blank Studio71
Ample white space is used here.


There are plenty of trends in minimalist design. Some have been around for so long that “trend” is probably not even the right word to use. In any case, the following elements are being put to good use in a variety of minimalist designs.


Gray is fundamental to minimalist design. Shades of it are used for backgrounds, text, images and pretty much all other elements, often combined with black and white or other colors.

Brian Hoff73
Gray can be used as an accent, not just for typography or backgrounds.


Michael Cronin75
Of course, gray also makes for a great background color, and it takes on a cool tone when combined with icy blue.


Ross Gunter77
Another very simple design with a gray background.


Sort Design79
Medium gray allows for good contrast with typography, while also making a stronger impact in the background than light gray.


Jack Osborne81
Gray lends itself particularly well to gradients.


Combining multiple shades of gray lends visual interest without cluttering.


Big Typography

Big typography is often used in place of images to add more graphic interest to a website.

Blake Allen Design85
Oversized typography is used throughout this website.


Kyle Steed87
Big typography is a popular choice for minimalist headers. It makes an impact while also conveying vital information.


Another example of oversized type in the header.


Combining different-sized fonts is a great way to add visual interest without clutter.


Words Are Pictures93
Large typography is also popular as an accent, rather than a focal point.


Ryan Evans95
Another website that combines multiple font sizes. It’s a great fit when the page has little content.


Tiny Villain97
Varying the size and color of type makes for an arresting design.


Division Paris99
Another great example of big typography in the header.


Background Patterns and Images

Subtle background patterns and bold images can add a huge visual interest to a minimalist design.

A subtle grunge pattern gives this design an edgy feel.


Neiman Group103
Keeping the background image in grayscale adds visual interest without adding clutter.


A large background image is still minimalist when the rest of the website’s content is very simple.


The subtle texture and pattern in this background is aesthetically pleasing without being overwhelming.


Francesco Fonte109
Another subtle grunge pattern.


Caitlin Worthington Photography111
This taupe grunge pattern is unexpected.


Simple Grids

Grids aren’t necessarily minimalist by nature, but simple ones can bring order to a bare design.

Fitzroy and Finn113
Simple grids make sense for organizing equally sized images.


Brand New115
A simple grid like this organizes without adding complexity.


Design Woop117
A more traditional grid design that has plenty of white space to keep things looking minimal.


Another great example of using simple grids to organize images, this time including text.


This simple-looking grid belies the careful thought that went into it.


Corporate Risk Watch123
This grid is set apart by the roll-over effects in the navigation (visit the website to check them out) and the subtle grid lines.


Positively Melancholy125
A simple grid like this works well for organizing different-sized images, too.



Circles can be found on many minimalist websites. I’m not sure whether designers who like circles are more inclined to have a minimalist aesthetic or whether they choose circles because they fit minimalist designs particularly well. In any case, circles are often found in headers and are also used as accents in navigation.

A simple circular logo in the header.


Simon J Hunter129
Another circle in the header, this time with a monogram.


Frank Chimero131
Another circular monogram for a logo.


And another.


Leica’s logo is a bright red circle, used across its products and marketing materials, including its website.


And another.


Circular badges like this are also popular.


Alex Cornell141
A circular logo with a more abstract design.


Circles aren’t just used for logos, though. Here’s a great example of a circle used for content.


Bonus: Transparency

This isn’t really a trend per se, because it’s not often seen in minimalist designs. But it can make a huge visual impact and should really be used more by minimalist designers.

Slideshow Press145
The subtle transparency in the logo gives this design an added dimension without creating clutter.


More Examples

Here are some more examples to inspire you.



Circus Family151


Dracula Studio155

Zachary Pulman157



Days with My Father163




Acne Production171

Further Resources



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Cameron Chapman is a professional Web and graphic designer with over 6 years of experience. She writes for a number of blogs, including her own, Cameron Chapman On Writing. She’s also the author of The Smashing Idea Book: From Inspiration to Application.

  1. 1

    the site “Blake Allen Design” may or may not have been hacked. I get a virus warning every time i try to view that site.

    i would probably advise removing that link and if some one knows the owner let them know. bummer cuz from the thumb it looks like a snazzy site.

  2. 52

    Avoid background colours
    Avoid images
    Avoid borders and hard dividers (hr)
    Avoid too many fonts and typefaces
    Avoid a large color palette
    Avoid information overload (each page/screen serves a singular purpose)
    Avoid more than three levels of nesting (navigation/breadcrumbs, lists, h1/h2/h3)
    Use plenty of white space (margins, padding)


  3. 103

    Just wanted to show off our site’s design which is very simple as well… suggestions very welcome (just use our feedback link).

  4. 154

    Visual Craftsman

    May 14, 2010 9:04 pm

    Much props to SM for the reference/example. Bravo on this post!

  5. 205

    This makes for great reading if you are thinking about a new website or are about to redesign one. Thank you, Cameron, for putting it all together and helping us think new thoughts!
    Yasmin Chopin Interior Design

  6. 256

    One important note about what makes a good design truly minimal is the fact that it is indeed irreducibly complex (ahh the irony). Meaning, you can not take away any element within the composition w/o breaking the integrity and relationships of the design.

  7. 307


    May 14, 2010 11:35 pm

    We love simplicity too…
    Great article, adding my knowledge of how to design a web with minimalist style.
    Thanks for share

  8. 358
  9. 409

    Thanx for featuring our website.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

  10. 460

    An other minimalist webdesign site here :

  11. 511

    Check this out:

  12. 562

    You really should stop googling for minimal web sites and then write about it like the 10,000 before you already did.
    Time to evolve because this type of posts are circular ones. And remember, not always the stuff you find in the net its correct….

  13. 613

    Nice article!

  14. 664

    I love minimalistic websites, I really do. I even went that route with my own website. I just wish I didn’t have to see the same exact websites being mentioned over and over all the time. Obviously the whole “Great minimalist websites” has been done many times, but it seems that everyone always lists the same websites/designers in them. There has to be some new people out there that deserve a little spotlight, right? I’m not saying those that get mentioned aren’t great, but where’s the love for the not so recognized little guy/girl?
    Great post, of course =)

  15. 715

    Another cool example is

    I just love a minimal clean layout, it puts the focus back on the content (where it’s supposed to be)

  16. 766

    Beautiful post!

    In your opinion is this site minimalist?

  17. 817

    Microsoft is the antithesis of “minimalist” in everything it does: for years, its badly designed Web site(s) have personified the idea of “overmarketed corporate slop.” Having said that, Microsoft’s redesign actually takes some of the ideas of minimalist design and implements them into a nice design:

    Please note, I am NOT saying that Microsoft has given us a “minimalist” site, I’m saying it has adopted some of the principles to craft its new design. It’s much less “corporate overlord” in its look and feel, and as a result, far more user-friendly (to my eye). Other large, overly busy sites (anyone been to or CNN’s site lately?) could take a page from Microsoft’s book and employ some of the principles of subtle color schemes, large(r) areas of whitespace, and the overall idea of “less is more” to revamp their sites.

    But some things don’t change; IE still sucks. :)

  18. 868

    Hard to call simplicity a trend but definitely getting tired of the bland white websites, its been over 3 years of this… I guess you can appreciate people taking care in their font selections and what content they do use but damn its getting boring, or has been boring and terribly stale for a while now.

    I guess I spend to much time looking at websites but I’m dieing to see something frest and new, its been such a long time since anything has had WOW factor, and none of these “minimalist” sites are ever going to do it.

  19. 919

    Many of those sites using small serif font, which is bad for readability.

  20. 970

    Great list, thought we might have made the list but maybe next time.

  21. 1021

    Matthias Wobrock

    May 17, 2010 1:46 am

    I’m a big supporter of minimalistic web design. I just like the look, feel and resulting accessibility and usability of these sites. I am also an online marketer, and stripping down landing pages to their core content greatly helps to get people to do what you want them to on a certain page.

    A thing you’ve mentioned and that I’m not that sure about is the use of circles. Circles by nature always draw a lot of attention from the eye. If there are too many circles in your design the page will look extremely busy. That’s why I think they are great, but should be used with care and to draw attention to key elements of a page rather than sit in headers or footers.

  22. 1072

    Really compelling list and great examples. I love how it wasn’t just a list post, but you included real information and grounds for picking the examples you did.

  23. 1123

    can tell your opinion about my portifolio

  24. 1174

    Thanks for the interesting post!
    What do you think about these two example?

    Greetings from Italy! :))

  25. 1225

    Can’t believe no one mentioned Beatrice Warde’s “The Crystal Goblet” here.

    “Type well used is invisible as type…”

    Just replace the word “type” with the word “design”.

  26. 1276

    I think this post is right, simple can be effective and you don’t always need to have a fantastic fancy design, this reminds me i wrote something up a few days ago here it is:

  27. 1327

    Lovely list! is another favorite.

  28. 1378

    Great article. “It’s simplicity that makes things beautiful ”
    Good book : Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data > Steven Few talks about “no-data pixel” : every elements that not help to use the interface.

  29. 1429

    Really great article with very impressive websites.

    It’s funny, because we’ve just launched our brand new website. Yeah, it’s a minimal, too.

    Hopefully we can be here on the next post about this :)

    Please visit if you have time:

  30. 1480

    Although not completely up to date and will soon be changed to a new design, my portfolio site fits the minimalist design to the T.


  31. 1531

    Very nice examples and explanations, thanks for the well put together article.
    We did also release a minimalist theme for WP

    and looks like the popularity of minimalist designs is increasing every day. ‘Simple is beautiful’

  32. 1582

    Another great example of minimalist design

  33. 1633

    i want to add a minimalistic photography site

  34. 1684

    Jeremiah selengia

    June 1, 2010 5:32 am

    Great inspirational stuff here. It got me well excited, think i will stay in and work on some stuff.

  35. 1735

    Great post!

    Check out my collection of minimalist web designs:

  36. 1786

    I tried to also keep it clean and simple by using as little imagery as possible and just letting the content be the design. Check out and let me know what you guys think and if there is an opportunity for me to improve or even simplify more. Thank you.

  37. 1837

    Gunisigi Balaban

    August 3, 2010 1:51 pm

    wow great collection!!! Thanks.. I think, vertical nav and single image pattern is overdone and look little bit boring for me.

  38. 1888

    “When crafting an extremely minimalist design, try subtracting elements until the design stops working the way it should. When the website is on the verge of breaking, you know you’ve achieved the most minimalist design possible.”

    What? You have got to be kidding me.

  39. 1939

    Thank you. Used the Elegance template with minimalistic design

  40. 1990

    Minimalism can be powerful, yet It’s very easy on the eyes. I went for a more minimalist approach on my design portfolio myself- let me know what you think

  41. 2041

    Inspirational. Too many comments! Fell obligated to come back and read them all but just having skimmed through I have found this immediately impact on my work. Favourite saying: “Subtract until it breaks”. Smashing once again. Pun completely intended. ;-)

  42. 2092

    How about this treat from an illustrator who seems to love typography

    The home page is breathtaking!

  43. 2143

    Thank you! Love this post.. It’s like a tutorial

  44. 2194

    This is a GREAT post! I hope you not mind.I published an excerpt on the web site and also linked back to your own blog site for people to read the full version. Thanks for the advice.

  45. 2245

    I really liked the Gray design and PixelStudio — both perfect examples of a Minimalist Website design done right! I wrote a similar article on Why a Minimalist Website Design is Better, check it out:

  46. 2296

    Went to make a comment and saw the little blurb above about spammy keywords. I dig that disclaimer almost as much as the article. Looking for ideas for my site design and I love a minimalist aesthetic, definitely want to carry over to the site design. Thanks for the great insights.


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