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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 Link

“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.

Examples Link

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

Screenshot3

Sleepover4
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.

Screenshot5

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.

Screenshot7

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

Screenshot

Sharpenr8
Simple navigation and graphics add to the overall minimalist feel here. The graphics are bold enough that they have visual impact without adding clutter.

Screenshot9

Omit Needless Things Link

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 things10.” 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.

Examples Link

up&onward11
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.

Screenshot12

Lachlan Bailey13
A single image and vertical navigation are as simple as it gets.

Screenshot14

Sarah Hultin15
Another example of a single image and vertical navigation.

Screenshot16

Aleksei Dubrovsky17
This website goes a step further and omits any images, opting instead for just a header and simple navigation.

Screenshot18

Subtract Until It Breaks Link

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.

Examples Link

Anothercompany19
A minimalist design with a single-column body and three-column footer. If any element was removed, the website would be less user-friendly.

Screenshot20

Works in Silence21
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.

Screenshot22

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

Screenshot

Danny Guy Photography23
The black background sets this apart from many other ultra-minimalist designs. Notice the full-screen option in the lower-right of the image.

Screenshot24

Brian Danaher25
Another website that opts for a single column and bold typography.

Screenshot26

Every Detail Counts Link

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.

Examples Link

Executive Edits27
Details like the oversized typography in the header and the thin borders between elements make the Executive Edits website stand out.

Screenshot28

Christine Szczupak Photography29
The stylized arrows and subtle drop-shadow are important details that increase the visual appeal of this website.

Screenshot30

Kha Hoang31
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.

Screenshot32

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

Screenshot

Ryan Willms33
The spacing and arrangement of content here, along with the elegant typography and simple lines, make for a fresh design.

Screenshot34

Visual Craftsman35
This has more detail than many minimalist websites, particularly with the border and other subtle graphics.

Screenshot36

Electricgecko37
The subtle colored box behind the content sets this design apart.

Screenshot38

Color Minimally Link

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.

Examples Link

Kyle Sollenberger Design39
Subtle pastel colors set apart certain content here.

Screenshot40

Pixelbot Webdesign41
Bright colors stand out against this otherwise black-and-white design.

Screenshot42

MattBango.com43
The shades of blue are subtle but highlight special areas of this otherwise black, white and gray design.

Screenshot44

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

Screenshot

Glinga
A simple website with a gray background and colored accents.

Screenshot

Deartoy45
Another simple design with colored accents.

Screenshot46

Superawesome47
Magenta is a popular accent color for minimalist sites.

Screenshot48

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

Screenshot

Nation49
Another colorful website with a great palette.

Screenshot50

White Space Is Vital Link

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.

Examples Link

Rikcat Industries51
Ample space between elements keeps this website from feeling cluttered.

Screenshot52

Straightline53
Another example of a ton of white space around elements.

Screenshot54

52 Weeks of UX55
Filling every column on the page is not necessary, as evidenced here on the 52 Weeks of UX website.

Screenshot56

Metro Gallery57
The Metro Gallery pays a lot of attention to white space, right down the spacing of letters in its category headers.

Screenshot58

Blank Studio59
Ample white space is used here.

Screenshot60

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 Link

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 Hoff61
Gray can be used as an accent, not just for typography or backgrounds.

Screenshot62

Michael Cronin63
Of course, gray also makes for a great background color, and it takes on a cool tone when combined with icy blue.

Screenshot64

Ross Gunter65
Another very simple design with a gray background.

Screenshot66

Sort Design67
Medium gray allows for good contrast with typography, while also making a stronger impact in the background than light gray.

Screenshot68

Jack Osborne69
Gray lends itself particularly well to gradients.

Screenshot70

5-Squared71
Combining multiple shades of gray lends visual interest without cluttering.

Screenshot72

Big Typography Link

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

Blake Allen Design73
Oversized typography is used throughout this website.

Screenshot74

Kyle Steed75
Big typography is a popular choice for minimalist headers. It makes an impact while also conveying vital information.

Screenshot76

EndGrain77
Another example of oversized type in the header.

Screenshot78

Dunnodt79
Combining different-sized fonts is a great way to add visual interest without clutter.

Screenshot80

Words Are Pictures81
Large typography is also popular as an accent, rather than a focal point.

Screenshot82

Ryan Evans83
Another website that combines multiple font sizes. It’s a great fit when the page has little content.

Screenshot84

Tiny Villain85
Varying the size and color of type makes for an arresting design.

Screenshot86

Division Paris87
Another great example of big typography in the header.

Screenshot88

Background Patterns and Images Link

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

Jeroenhoman.com89
A subtle grunge pattern gives this design an edgy feel.

Screenshot90

Neiman Group91
Keeping the background image in grayscale adds visual interest without adding clutter.

Screenshot92

IdeaPaint93
A large background image is still minimalist when the rest of the website’s content is very simple.

Screenshot94

Bunton95
The subtle texture and pattern in this background is aesthetically pleasing without being overwhelming.

Screenshot96

Francesco Fonte97
Another subtle grunge pattern.

Screenshot98

Caitlin Worthington Photography99
This taupe grunge pattern is unexpected.

Screenshot100

Simple Grids Link

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

Fitzroy and Finn101
Simple grids make sense for organizing equally sized images.

Screenshot102

Brand New103
A simple grid like this organizes without adding complexity.

Screenshot104

Design Woop105
A more traditional grid design that has plenty of white space to keep things looking minimal.

Screenshot106

Fortyone107
Another great example of using simple grids to organize images, this time including text.

Screenshot108

Things109
This simple-looking grid belies the careful thought that went into it.

Screenshot110

Corporate Risk Watch111
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.

Screenshot112

Positively Melancholy113
A simple grid like this works well for organizing different-sized images, too.

Screenshot114

Circles Link

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.

iLTD
A simple circular logo in the header.

Screenshot

Simon J Hunter115
Another circle in the header, this time with a monogram.

Screenshot116

Frank Chimero
Another circular monogram for a logo.

Screenshot

Indextwo117
And another.

Screenshot118

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

Screenshot

io119
And another.

Screenshot120

Bless121
Circular badges like this are also popular.

Screenshot122

Alex Cornell123
A circular logo with a more abstract design.

Screenshot124

Royale125
Circles aren’t just used for logos, though. Here’s a great example of a circle used for content.

Screenshot126

Bonus: Transparency Link

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 Press127
The subtle transparency in the logo gives this design an added dimension without creating clutter.

Screenshot128

More Examples Link

Here are some more examples to inspire you.

Brancozero129
Screenshot130

FLOWmarket
Screenshot

Circus Family131
Screenshot132

Reknit133
Screenshot134

Dracula Studio
Screenshot

Zachary Pulman135
Screenshot136

Laboixeta
Screenshot

SkilledConcept137
Screenshot138

Days with My Father139
Screenshot140

NeueBlanc141
Screenshot142

Winkreative143
Screenshot144

Madewithpixels145
Screenshot146

Acne Production147
Screenshot148

Further Resources Link

(al)

Footnotes Link

  1. 1 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2008/11/17/showcase-of-minimalist-and-clean-designs/
  2. 2 http://www.northkingdom.com/
  3. 3 http://www.northkingdom.com/
  4. 4 http://www.sleepoversf.com/
  5. 5 http://www.sleepoversf.com/
  6. 6 http://www.jonaslindvall.com/
  7. 7 http://www.jonaslindvall.com/
  8. 8 http://www.sharpenr.net/
  9. 9 http://www.sharpenr.net/
  10. 10 http://zenhabits.net/2009/08/the-minimalist-principle-omit-needless-things/
  11. 11 http://www.upandonward.com/
  12. 12 http://www.upandonward.com/
  13. 13 http://www.lachlanbailey.com/
  14. 14 http://www.lachlanbailey.com/
  15. 15 http://www.sarahhultin.com/
  16. 16 http://www.sarahhultin.com/
  17. 17 http://alexdubrovsky.com/
  18. 18 http://alexdubrovsky.com/
  19. 19 http://www.anothercompany.org/
  20. 20 http://www.anothercompany.org/
  21. 21 http://www.worksinsilence.com/
  22. 22 http://www.worksinsilence.com/
  23. 23 http://www.dannyguy.com/
  24. 24 http://www.dannyguy.com/
  25. 25 http://www.briandanaher.com/
  26. 26 http://www.briandanaher.com/
  27. 27 http://www.executiveedits.com/
  28. 28 http://www.executiveedits.com/
  29. 29 http://christinaszczupak.com/
  30. 30 http://christinaszczupak.com/
  31. 31 http://khahoang.com/
  32. 32 http://khahoang.com/
  33. 33 http://www.ryanwillms.com/
  34. 34 http://www.ryanwillms.com/
  35. 35 http://www.visualcraftsman.com/
  36. 36 http://www.visualcraftsman.com/
  37. 37 http://electricgecko.de/
  38. 38 http://electricgecko.de/
  39. 39 http://kylesollenberger.com/
  40. 40 http://kylesollenberger.com/
  41. 41 http://pixelbot.ro/
  42. 42 http://pixelbot.ro/
  43. 43 http://www.mattbango.com/
  44. 44 http://www.mattbango.com/
  45. 45 http://deartroy.com/blog/
  46. 46 http://deartroy.com/blog/
  47. 47 http://sprawsm.com/
  48. 48 http://sprawsm.com/
  49. 49 http://www.wearenation.co.uk/
  50. 50 http://www.wearenation.co.uk/
  51. 51 http://www.rikcatindustries.com/
  52. 52 http://www.rikcatindustries.com/
  53. 53 http://www.straightline.jp/
  54. 54 http://www.straightline.jp/
  55. 55 http://52weeksofux.com/
  56. 56 http://52weeksofux.com/
  57. 57 http://blog.metrogallery.com.au/
  58. 58 http://blog.metrogallery.com.au/
  59. 59 http://www.blankspaces.net/
  60. 60 http://www.blankspaces.net/
  61. 61 http://www.brianhoff.net/
  62. 62 http://www.brianhoff.net/
  63. 63 http://mikstudios.com/
  64. 64 http://mikstudios.com/
  65. 65 http://www.rossgunter.com/
  66. 66 http://www.rossgunter.com/
  67. 67 http://www.sortdesign.co.uk/
  68. 68 http://www.sortdesign.co.uk/
  69. 69 http://jackosborne.co.uk/
  70. 70 http://jackosborne.co.uk/
  71. 71 http://www.5-squared.com/
  72. 72 http://www.5-squared.com/
  73. 73 http://www.blakeallendesign.com/
  74. 74 http://www.blakeallendesign.com/
  75. 75 http://kylesteed.com/
  76. 76 http://kylesteed.com/
  77. 77 http://www.end-grain.net/
  78. 78 http://www.end-grain.net/
  79. 79 http://www.dunnodt.com/
  80. 80 http://www.dunnodt.com/
  81. 81 http://www.wordsarepictures.co.uk/
  82. 82 http://www.wordsarepictures.co.uk/
  83. 83 http://www.ryanevans.me/
  84. 84 http://www.ryanevans.me/
  85. 85 http://www.tinyvillain.com/
  86. 86 http://www.tinyvillain.com/
  87. 87 http://www.divisionparis.com/
  88. 88 http://www.divisionparis.com/
  89. 89 http://www.jeroenhoman.com/
  90. 90 http://www.jeroenhoman.com/
  91. 91 http://neimangroup.com/
  92. 92 http://neimangroup.com/
  93. 93 http://www.ideapaint.com/site/index.html
  94. 94 http://www.ideapaint.com/site/index.html
  95. 95 http://bunton.com.au/
  96. 96 http://bunton.com.au/
  97. 97 http://www.ffranz.com/
  98. 98 http://www.ffranz.com/
  99. 99 http://www.caitlinworthington.com/
  100. 100 http://www.caitlinworthington.com/
  101. 101 http://fitzroyandfinn.co.uk/
  102. 102 http://fitzroyandfinn.co.uk/
  103. 103 http://www.underconsideration.com/brandnew/
  104. 104 http://www.underconsideration.com/brandnew/
  105. 105 http://designwoop.com/
  106. 106 http://designwoop.com/
  107. 107 http://www.fortyone.ch/
  108. 108 http://www.fortyone.ch/
  109. 109 http://things.be/
  110. 110 http://things.be/
  111. 111 http://www.corporateriskwatch.com/
  112. 112 http://www.corporateriskwatch.com/
  113. 113 http://www.positivelymelancholy.com/
  114. 114 http://www.positivelymelancholy.com/
  115. 115 http://sjhunter.net/
  116. 116 http://sjhunter.net/
  117. 117 http://www.indextwo.com/
  118. 118 http://www.indextwo.com/
  119. 119 http://www.ioadv.it/
  120. 120 http://www.ioadv.it/
  121. 121 http://www.blessdesign.com/
  122. 122 http://www.blessdesign.com/
  123. 123 http://alexcornell.com/
  124. 124 http://alexcornell.com/
  125. 125 http://royale.no/
  126. 126 http://royale.no/
  127. 127 http://www.sideshowpress.com/
  128. 128 http://www.sideshowpress.com/
  129. 129 http://www.brancozero.com/
  130. 130 http://www.brancozero.com/
  131. 131 http://www.circus.fm/
  132. 132 http://www.circus.fm/
  133. 133 http://www.rekn.it/
  134. 134 http://www.rekn.it/
  135. 135 http://zacharypulman.com/
  136. 136 http://zacharypulman.com/
  137. 137 http://skilledconcept.com/
  138. 138 http://skilledconcept.com/
  139. 139 http://www.dayswithmyfather.com/
  140. 140 http://www.dayswithmyfather.com/
  141. 141 http://www.neueblanc.com/
  142. 142 http://www.neueblanc.com/
  143. 143 http://www.winkreative.com/
  144. 144 http://www.winkreative.com/
  145. 145 http://www.madewithpixels.co.uk/
  146. 146 http://www.madewithpixels.co.uk/
  147. 147 http://www.acneproduction.com/
  148. 148 http://www.acneproduction.com/
  149. 149 http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2009/12/minimalist-web-design-when-less-is-more/
  150. 150 http://www.skelliewag.org/a-guide-to-creating-a-minimalist-website-63.htm
  151. 151 http://bloggingbits.com/minimalism-in-web-design/
  152. 152 http://www.problogdesign.com/blog-usability/minimalism-is-just-designer-speak-for-laziness/
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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

    Sweet stuff, made me think about some aspects on my own website.

    0
  2. 2

    fantastic compilation, thanks from joover!

    1
  3. 3

    I’m tired of “clean and neat” and “minimalism.”

    Bring back “dirty and busy” and big, hearty MAXIMALISM!
    :D

    1
  4. 4

    Federica Sibella

    May 13, 2010 2:47 am

    Wow! Big collection, very inspiring. We also have a minimalist website, but we’re thinking of a little redesign this summer. It will remain minimalist of course!
    Thanks for sharing.

    0
  5. 5

    Creative Mashup

    May 13, 2010 2:57 am

    Nice showcase. A lots of new, never seen, examples…Anothercompany is my favourite.

    When I was designing my studios website: creativemashup.pl I was inspired by sites similar to Bless and SkilledConcept.

    :)

    0
  6. 6

    Simplicity is a feature.
    And this is the top priority.

    0
  7. 7

    I see the minimalist websites often have great typography. Would it be considered as a principle of minimalist design?

    Thanks for the article.

    0
    • 8

      Rilwis,
      When you have only five or six major design elements on a page, you have to make sure everything follows the principles and look nice.

      0
  8. 9

    Simplicity is what really appeals to me and these are lovely examples.

    0
  9. 10

    Beautiful websites.

    I think Antoine de Saint-Exupery said it best: “You know you’ve achieved perfection in design, not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away.”

    0
  10. 11

    Peter Repta

    May 13, 2010 3:27 am

    Love this article. It’s my passion to create simple, fresh and minimalistic designs. In the past, I wasn’t fan of minimalism, but I recently realized it’s great way to attract visitor and there’s always a plenty of space to loose imagination and create something very unique.

    0
  11. 12

    Why don´t you explain the PROCESS of getting minimal?
    I guess most of those websites didn´t reach this level of perfection by seeing showcases.

    I give up Smashing Magazine.

    -2
    • 13

      Smashing Editorial

      May 13, 2010 3:59 am

      Actually, the article describes the process and covers some principles that will help you achieve a minimal design. Please read the article more carefully.

      3
      • 14

        Topics and a few lines.
        Nothing that deep.

        -2
        • 15

          You have to admit it’s at least better than those “30 minimalists websites” list, no?

          Thanks for the article.

          0
        • 17

          I don’t know. I do see the intro paragraph to each section, but its kind of self defeating to the concepts explained in not keeping it minimal in the *volume* of examples – and rather putting more into the decomposition of each – that the little paragraph (or two) get swallowed up in the same feel of *”those “30 minimalists websites” list”*. I felt like it was the same endless scrolling (though I’m a gluten for punishment and indeed did all the scrolling) from the list-type posts, only broken by a short blurb. Now mind you, I’m too damn lazy to write that 2 paragraphs myself… so thanks for that and all the linking. I’d love to see more analysis or even discussion.

          Now for analysis/discussion, it may be my natural aversion as a photographer to the color Cyan, but I feel like the Lindall A&D is really just an eye-strain. I think Nation site did a bit better and using the minimal color for emphasis by the use of more contrast[ing elements]. I think the Tiny example tries to use the Cyan as an emphasis element through its minimal color usage, but its again hard to read because of all the white around it, becoming an eye-strain. I think this brings up a good point that when using minimalism as an enabler of emphasis/importance, then we have to be much more picky on the choices/elements we are contrasting. … That ends my “i hate cyan rant”

          1
    • 18

      If you don’t have it, you won’t get it!

      It’s called creativity.

      2
  12. 19

    Bob Venturi said, time ago “Less is a bore”.

    1
  13. 20

    Great post, I just updated my portfolio website to make it more minimalistic. The goal was to take away as many distractions from my artwork as possible. http://www.robertburchillustration.com

    1
  14. 21

    CoryMathews

    May 13, 2010 5:07 am

    Minimal FTW!

    1
    • 22

      I really appreciate all your work, thank you so much providing such a valuable pages.

      -2
  15. 23

    Glenn Sorrentino

    May 13, 2010 5:09 am

    Great collection. It’s more difficult to design minimally than one may think and all of these are great examples of how to do it right.

    1
  16. 24

    amazing :D

    love it ^^

    1
  17. 25

    “It was popularized by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in describing the minimalist aesthetic.”
    It’s totally wrong, totally nonsense. Please stop quoting Mies about minimalist design. Mies was an architect and is work is not minimalist -see the glyphs on the roof of his museum in Berlin-, he didn’t care less about minimalim. So please stop quoting Mies when you know nothing about architecture and art.
    and sorry about my english, I’m not a native english speaker.
    S.

    1
  18. 27

    Mindblowing concepts. Thanks for the post.

    1
  19. 28

    I think you missed Aisle One, Keyboard driven Blog (Shortcuts for different Grids and a Dashboard), with a nice, simple Design + Logo:

    http://www.aisleone.net/

    0
  20. 29

    “Glamour is back, but with a minimalist touch.” – Gianni Versace

    0

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