‘Less is more’ sums up 1930s Modernists aims.
Popularised by architect & designer Mies van der Rohe, is the return to minimalism with ‘Clean & Lean’ websites a good thing?
Rationalising design elements brings clarity. So people remember, in years to come, who spearheaded this new website style, it was: medium.com.
However, to paraphrase Einstein, any fool can make things complex. Simplicity is a lot harder.
Less is Bore
To understand the risk of blindly jumping on the clean and lean bandwagon, we need to learn from past masters.
At the heart of Modernism was another design principle. “Form must follow function”.
Less skilled designers ignore this principle, at their client’s peril!
As on medium.com, the clean and lean aesthetic usually means a single column layout. Taking up a full desktop screen height is a single image, a heading and sub heading.
As in the image pictured right, the article then follows, in single column.
The justification is, that every mouse now has a scroll wheel.
To view, even the opening lines of an article, you need to scroll down. To view more articles, you need to click the ‘hamburger’ icon to reveal the navigation bar. This then presents a long list of articles to scroll down.
The design works as it contains a collection of blog posts only. However, designers are now hiding navigation on other sites.
Go find it yourself
Visitors are no longer being enticed to stay on the site. Instead of consistently signposting useful content, visitors are expected to click about until they stumble upon what they are looking for.
Hiding or only having menu items on certain pages is ironically called a ‘Natural User Interface’. There’s nothing natural about it. It requires second guessing how the majority of visitors navigate through a site. Anyone who has modified the design of a site, based on traffic data, will know how varied that journey tends to be and how ludicrous that sounds.
In a recent article, Kendra Gaines announced 3 reasons to stop using navigation bars.
- Fewer Distractions
“Every page is listed in a nav bar, even though some minor pages have minimal content. By removing the navigation, you can focus on what is important…” How about re-organising content and optimizing content hierarchy so it is logical and easy to find.
- Customer Focus
Kendra appears to believe navigation bars are just something designers want… In my experience, whilst clients want to be on-trend, they will change their position, if advised based on logic or usability evidence from the designer.
- Experience Driven Design
Removing navigation creates “a platform to have a fully immersive brand design that should cater directly to the customer”… No idea! Kendra continues by referring to creating something ‘magical and mind-blowing’. Reminds me of self-indulgent, turn of the century, Flash based sites. About as enjoyable as a Prog Rock musician doing a 20 minute acoustic guitar solo.
Maybe everything I know is wrong.
I just presumed removing signposts discourages engagement. Visitors are more likely to miss the content that would engaged them. And this means premature exits and less visitors getting in touch.
Disagree? Add your comment.