"Use as few features as are necessary
to achieve what you need to achieve"
Web design is simpler
than ever, and that's a good thing.
2.0 design means
focused, clean and simple.
That does not essentially mean
minimalist, which I will explain to you later.
I really believe in simplicity.
That's not to say that all web sites should be minimal, but that we
should use as few features as are necessary to achieve what you need to
I've written elsewhere about Occam's
Razor, which is a principle I use all the time. A way to
interpret it is: If there are any two possible solutions to a problem
then the simpler one is always the better one.
Here you will find few examples. Just
observe how the needless elements have been stripped out from each. You
could fill more on every page but the question is: Will this make them
The answer is that you need
to check out the content. Here you will realize that you are
interacting with precisely those screen features which the designer
wants you to interact with.
Why simplicity is good
- Web sites have goals and all web
pages have purposes.
- Users' attention is a finite
- It is the work of the designer job
to assist the users to locate what they are looking for (or to see what
the site wants them to observe)
- Stuff on the
screen attracts the eye. If there is more stuff then you will have to
check out different things. As a result, you may not be able to check
out the significant things.
- So we need to enable certain
communication, and we also need to minimise noise. That means we need
to find a solution that's does its stuff with as little as possible.
That's economy, or simplicity.
When & how to make your
All the time!
There are 2 significant features of
obtaining achievement with simplicity:
- Get rid of unwanted elements,
without compromising on effectiveness.
- Try out alternative solutions that
achieve the same result more simply.
designing, take it as a discipline consciously to remove all
unnecessary visual elements.
Focus mainly on those regions of the
layout that are not so significant to the purpose of a web page as
visual activity in such regions would sidetrack attention from the main
content and navigation.
Here's an example of a design that
suffers from not enough simplicity.
Yaxay's interface uses a lot of
pixels, but the vast majority of them are decorative,
part of the page background. Relatively few pixels are used to user to
find or understand information or interact with the site.
Take a look at the screeshots below:
See how much "stuff" there is to look
at, and notice how few of the pixels are used to clarify actual
navigation, actual content, or actual interactive features.
Tufte is the boss when it comes to the design of information.
He uses the terms "data ink" (i.e. detail
that enables information transfer) and "non-data ink"
(i.e. detail that's just detail) to describe this phenomenon.
A way in which Tufte particularly
measures the usefulness of information design (graphs, charts,
presentations etc.) is through the use of the ratio of
data-ink to non-data-ink. The higher the proportion of
data-ink used, the more likely it is that a design is effective.
Taking the Yaxay detail above,
there's a lot of what I call "busyness", i.e. a lot of edges, tonal
changes, colour variations, shapes, lines... a lot of stuff to look at.
But, in this detail, the only useful
- The site logo, and
- the label on the nav button (which
reads "art gallery")
The other "busyness": the slanting
lines in the interface panel, gradients, shapes in the background, the
grid... all this is noise, its all "non-data ink", because it's not
I'm not against richness, complexity
or beauty in web design
Use as many pixels as you
need, in whatever way you need, to facilitate the communication that
needs to happen.
Of course, often what you're
communicating isn't hard data, but soft
- Hard data
- means facts, like news, stock
prices, train times, or how much money is in your bank account...
- Soft information
- covers the qualitative aspects of
communication, like the first impression about
the quality of a company, the sense of how
approachable a service provider is, and whether you feel
a product will be right for you. It may be turn out to be just as
Whether what you're communicating is
hard or soft, your pixels count, so use them consciously and with care.
Take the example below:
Dukal's site is rich, interesting and appealing. It uses a
range of visual techniques to draw your attention, make you interested
and to give you a warm feeling about the quality of Alex's work.
On the other hand, it's also simple,
because it uses its pixels/ink/busyness with care and sensitivity. It's
not gratuitous, it's economical and
Whatever you believe, decide sensibly
when you use your ink/pixels. Use it to communicate, first and
foremost, and then ask whether you can communicate just as effectively
with less. If you can, do it.