Nailing your web design can make a huge difference to your brand’s impact. First impressions count for a lot, especially where buyers are concerned, so it is vital to capture and hold their attention from the moment they land on your website.
There are several key features that can help you achieve this goal. However, implementing these techniques as part of a unique, coherent design can be a challenge.
It can be tempting to fill every space with something that contributes to your brand's message. However, modern web design has begun to trend towards a more minimalist approach. After all, as master of design, Leonardo da Vinci tells us, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
But can a minimalist approach truly help your branding efforts? And how can the principles of this reductive approach be applied to web design?
Related: Our Website Redesign Checklist
Omit the Inessential
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Many brands use minimalist designs to great effect, to the extent that web-builders and content management platforms now tend to offer a range of minimalist templates to work from.
The key feature of this approach is to do away with absolutely everything that is not required to convey the intended message. These designs do not treat white space as a flaw, but rather as a feature in its own right.
A well-placed product image can be very effective. However, if your tagline is, “Our wetsuits are the best”, do you need a picture to prove it, or does the statement on its own suggest greater confidence in your product?
The first step is to clearly define the intended tone and content of your message. In addition, your design should fall in line with the overarching personality of your brand. Anything that does not contribute to either of those objectives can be discarded.
“Less is more.” - Mies Van Der Rohe
The real strength of minimalist design, aside from being visually striking, is that it enables you to truly isolate your message.
Anything that does not directly strengthen your CTA could act as a distraction, drawing your audience's focus, and interest, to the wrong part of the page.
That is not to say that every other feature will be detrimental to your message. Effective minimalist design is about balance and careful placement. Use white space effectively to make your chosen elements stand out, and structure your layout such that each feature complements the the others.
Identify the Indispensable
“Make things as simple as possible but no simpler.” - Albert Einstein
When choosing what to eliminate from your design, it is important not to go too far. For example, minimalist navigation might improve your website's visual appeal, but if it means visitors cannot find what they need, it could be detrimental.
Plan out exactly what you want each page to convey, and list the bare minimum of features necessary to accomplish that goal. For example, your design should almost certainly include your brand name and logo, and your call to action. Other features such as menu icons, or direct links to features such as your blog or online store are more dependent on your intentions. Will they add value, or distract from your message?
Some of these questions can only be answered through trial and error. Pay attention to the analytics data and weigh up your options by running simultaneous tests of the features you are still unsure about.
If your website is underpinned by an ecommerce CMS or similar system, you should take advantage of inbuilt testing solutions, and do not be afraid to trial sitewide redesigns. These platforms enable you to roll out changes universally, with minimal administration on your part, which can be a great way to grab your audience’s attention, highlight a promotion, or even rebrand your business.
Make Every Element Count
“Have nothing...that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” - William Morris
As you approach your final design, take a moment to assess each feature and determine what it contributes to your message. If it adds nothing, then there is no reason to include it.
However, it is worth remembering that aesthetic elements are also included in this. A feature that is included purely for its visual appeal still adds value if the design would be diminished without it.
Listen to user feedback and consider directly seeking the opinions of your audience via a short survey on social media. Not only will this encourage people to check out your website if they haven't already,but it also demonstrates that you are prioritizing your customers’ interests.
Of course, understanding the impact of your design choices will help you to make these decisions. Consider split-testing variations on the same layout, and analyzing the performance of individual elements in order to refine your design.
A minimalist approach is not the only option for creating a striking and effective website. You may find that this style is simply not in keeping with your brand's identity. Nevertheless, whether you embrace a fully reductive design, or take your website in an entirely different direction, there is still a lot to be learned from the minimalist philosophy.
Make sure that every element on your website adds value in some way. If not, replace it with something that does, or simply remove it and allow the rest of your design to speak for itself.