The popularity of minimalist web design has rapidly increased, to the point that many ready-made themes now trend towards this ideal. Yet this is not an arbitrary shift in consumer preferences, but rather a powerful indicator of the key principles of creating a positive user experience.
On one level, a simple design will generally load faster, reducing the risk that visitors to your website will become impatient and leave. However, simplicity of design also makes it easier to present a clearly defined message and focus the user’s attention exactly as you choose.
Furthermore, these principles apply not only to websites, but to the design of business applications. Creating a consistent, recognizable, easy-to-use aesthetic across your app and website can boost trust and drive sales by making your brand’s image more familiar to its audience. This means customers know what to expect from your business, which in turn makes them feel more secure when interacting with your content.
As mentioned above, at the heart of simple design is the clarity it conveys. By making good use of white space and arranging the features of your website coherently, you can emphasize your CTA and drive your message home.
Braille Skateboarding nails this aspect of their design using bold colors and an eye-catching message. Their logo and sharing buttons are clearly visible, and after reading the heading, the user’s eye is drawn to the second CTA.
The navigation is immediately obvious, and there are no unnecessary features above the fold. This means nothing distracts from the message or confuses the user as to the purpose of the site.
Credit: Braille Skateboarding
Ease of Use
Contrary to appearances, simplicity does not necessarily go hand-in-hand with ease of use. In fact, an oversimplified design can make it extremely difficult to identify how to access further information, or act upon the message presented.
Nevertheless, a design that has been reduced to its essential components creates a clean, clear aesthetic, which highlights its most important features. As you can see in the images below, both apps provide simple menus with large icons, making their purpose it immediately apparent to the user.
The WimH of Method app, on the left, uses four tabs with only essential functionality attached to each one. Users can review the instructions for each step, watch a short video explaining the method, or track their progress using the in-app timer.
Credit: WHM App
Memrise uses a slightly different approach, with a menu overlay that enables users to quickly navigate to other functions or customize their learning experience. Brightly colored icons correspond to the exercises within the app, making them instantly recognizable, even without the descriptions beneath them.
Credit: Memrise App
Context and Continuity
Simplicity is particularly valuable when your website has a large number of pages, as is often the case for ecommerce sites. A simple design is easier to implement across a variety of formats, and to adjust so it displays correctly via different browsers and mobile devices.
For the user, a clean-cut design also makes it clear that they have not navigated away from the site, as the format remains eye-catching and recognizable. In the example below, the page is dedicated entirely to the promotion of a single work, with each work having its own page in the same format.
The only other detail included is the navigation bar, with each tab featuring a drop-down. This means users can quickly explore the site without their screen being cluttered by lengthy menus. As such, their attention is focused entirely on the item being promoted.
Meeting User Expectations
Another upside to keeping your UX simple is that it is easier to create something that follows existing trends. This means visitors can navigate your site intuitively, based on their experiences with similar websites.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should simply copy your competitors. Your brand image and user experience needs to be unique if you want to stand out and prove to visitors that you can offer something new and different.
Nevertheless, being aware of tried and tested formulas is critical when conceptualizing your design. Not only does this enable you to improve your website’s ease of use, but it also gives you additional opportunities to surprise and engage with your audience.
For example, something that looks like a button should be one. And if it isn’t, something should still happen to acknowledge the user’s expectations: perhaps an arrow could appear, directing the user to the correct part of the page. As a general rule, if you choose to subvert expectations, make sure the result is exciting, not disappointing; otherwise your site can feel confusing and difficult to navigate.
Credit: Google Search
Whether you start from scratch, or you build your design using a pre-existing theme, the key to great design is to make it your own. Every decision should hinge on two main factors: your message and your audience. To create the best user experience, you need to ensure that your app or website conveys your brand’s message clearly, and captivatingly.
There are many pre-made ecommerce themes available via open source website design solutions such as WordPress, and ecommerce store builders such as Shopify. The level of customization you go for will depend on your budget and the needs of your business.
While these themes provide a reliable framework upon which to work, if you intend to fully customize your website, you may benefit more from hiring a web designer to help you realize your vision.
At the same time, if budget constraints limit you initially, you can start out with a pre-made theme, and build upon that as your business grows. This will give you the chance to test each aspect of your design, until you are ready to reinvent your website to provide a user experience that is tailor-made for your audience.
Your users have not come to your website to fight for the information they need; they want an experience that makes it as easy possible to find the answers they are seeking. Remember this and provide them with a clear path to to achieving this goal. By doing this you will improve your chances of your users leaving your website as long-term customers, not temporary visitors. – Victoria Greene, Branding Specialist at Victoria Ecommerce