The 1930s maxim, Less is More popularised by architect & designer Mies van der Rohe is back.
Now reinvented for web design, Minimalism is referred to as Clean & Lean This new style, was first spearheaded by medium.com.
Minimalist design brings clarity. However, to paraphrase Einstein, any fool can make things complex. Simplicity is a lot harder.
Learning from the Past
To avoid blindly jumping on the clean and lean bandwagon, we can look to past masters and learn from them. At the heart of Modernism was another maxim ‘Form follows function’.
Designers ignore this principle, at their client’s peril. To illustrate this point read my brief analysis, in the grey box, on how less can be flawed!
The Madness of Hiding Vital Signposts
In years to come, few will believe the extremes some designers went, to hide vital navigation aids to content. So, to prove it, here’s a ludicrous article by Kendra Gaines, giving 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 combining smaller, related sections on the same page? Removing navigation helps you focus on… what are you focusing on?
Customer Focus “Navigation bars… are the norm. We’re just slapping it on a site as one-size-fits-all.” Show me a site – other than a landing page for a campaign – that wouldn’t benefit from a navigation bar. I’d love to see it.
Experience Driven Design “Let’s build a bridge… of varying length… the smoothest bridge possible.” Perhaps, whatever she was taking, triggered her broken dream to become a civil engineer. Who knows. However, by this point Kendra starts mumbling about creating something ‘magical and mind-blowing’…
Each article starts with a full width and screen height image, heading & tagline.
This post and screenshots were originally created in 2014. Medium.com has been redesigned since and navigation is… slightly better.
Go Find it Yourself
If you guess correctly(!), to view more articles, you clicked on the ‘M’ logo, top left. This reveals the navigation bar, which presents a long list of articles to scroll down.
Hiding navigation signposts in this way seems arrogant and dysfunctional. Visitors are no longer being enticed to stay on the site. Instead of guiding visitors, they’re left to click about, until they stumble upon what they are looking for!
To view, even the opening lines of an article, you need to scroll down. Then, using the ‘Mobile First’ principle, layout is single column even on desktops and tablets! The justification is, that every mouse now has a scroll wheel.
The problem is, you are then immersed in this article only. Once completed there is no signpost to head off elsewhere. Here’s a screenshot of a short article, stretched over several screen heights, due it being single column. Happy scrolling!
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