“A modern paradox is that it’s simpler to create complex interfaces because it’s so complex to simplify them.” -Pär Almqvist
The best website and user interface designs are invisible to the user. They don’t include unnecessary UI-bling or design elements. Color isn’t added for the sake of adding color. Photos or graphical elements aren’t added to “make things pop more.” Sites should only be exciting when their purpose is to be exciting, such as an entertainment site. E-commerce sites, corporate sites, and the like should have much different objectives. Adding unnecessary design and interactivity for the sole intention of generating excitement is a beginner’s mistake. At Webolutions, we like to start the web design process with simple and effective layouts and add elements as necessary. It’s our contention that if you’ve reached the point of stripping out design elements early on in the stage, the design process has failed.
Simplicity in website and user interface design–at its most basic–is the absence of all unnecessary elements from a design. Simplicity has two major effects on website and user interface design. First, it improves the legibility of the website. By stripping out UI-bling, the user is able to get the information they need quickly. Second, it improves first impressions. Numerous usability studies have proven that users prefer simple designs to flashy ones. Sites with more than 3 colors, excessive graphic effects, and cramped content feel cheap to users. One of the most effective, albeit misunderstood, ways of doing this is managing whitespace. Instead of being an area of nothingness on the page, whitespace actually helps improve readability. It also, contrary to popular belief, highlights certain things on a page. It’s intentionally left untouched in order to smooth things out and transform the website or user interface into something the user finds easy to use. Whitespace is essential to communicating a clear and direct message. Take Google’s homepage, for example. There aren’t unnecessary backgrounds, font treatments, or graphical elements. Instead, there’s a white background, a logo, and a search box–all the user needs to use Google search.
Whenever you’re thinking about adding a new feature or element to an interface, ask the question, “Does the user really need this?” Are you considering the user? Or are you merely adding it because you like it? The most popular brands, websites, and user interfaces in the world live by this mantra. Keep it simple–overly complex websites and user interfaces are a sure way to lose the interest of your users.
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