The 4 Principles of Clean Web Design

When designing websites, there’s always some friction between what you want to do and what you know you should do. While you have a bunch of design techniques and skills up your sleeves, the marketplace demands simple, intuitive design. Learning to restrain yourself and focus on key principles will help you thrive with clean web design.

Tapping Into the 4 Principles of Clean Design

Clean web design clearly and succinctly delivers value to visitors without over-stimulating the senses or distracting from the main conversion objectives. Not only is it efficient, but it’s also aesthetically pleasing and visually immersive.

While clean web design looks simple from the user’s perspective, it’s anything but basic. Mastering clean design requires skill, experience, and a focus on the following five principles. 

  1. Negative Space (Lots of It)

It can seem overdone at times, but the general rule of thumb is that there’s no such thing as too much negative space in today’s world of web design. While generally white, negative space can take on any light, unobtrusive color that allows the images, text, and content in the foreground to be highlighted.

Apple is the king of using negative space in web design – their page featuring the new iPhone X is no exception. The white background allows the foreground to pop and reinforces the brand’s “clean” perception. 

  1. High-Resolution Images

Because the goal of clean web design is to simplify the delivery of content and value in a highly visual way, there tend to be a lot of images and graphics. To maximize the use of these visuals, it’s important to only use high-resolution images that “pop” off the screen.

This page from Georgian Jewelry is an example of the power of using high-resolution images in tandem with negative space. Notice how the images seem to effortlessly float against the background, enhancing the perceived value of the vintage engagement rings and helping visitors experience them more fully. 

  1. Streamlined Navigation

Clean web design advocates for a seamless user experience, which means navigation should be easy and effortless. A bulky menu with complicated hierarchies and lots of different sub-categories isn’t ideal. Instead, simplify your structure and focus on directing visitors to the most important pages on your site.

If your site does have lots of individual pages and URL’s – such as an ecommerce website – work on funneling visitors to sub-pages that can then direct them to specific products. This is a better approach than giving them dozens of options to choose from on the homepage. 

  1. Absence of Motion

Over the past decade, digital marketers have discovered the importance of building and growing email lists to reach their audiences. This has led to an increased emphasis on getting website visitors to opt-in. And while there’s nothing wrong with a simple opt-in form on a web page, clean web design doesn’t advocate for exit-intent popups and other motion-based subscription forms. These can be distracting and frustrating for visitors and aren’t consistent with the goal of clean design.

Along this same line of thinking, it’s best to avoid auto-play videos – whether in a sidebar or in the background. While there’s a case to be made for homepage video backgrounds, they often end up distracting from a site’s more important conversion goals. 

Less is Typically More

There are instances where web design must simultaneously encompass a lot of different elements and accomplish a litany of objectives, but there’s typically room to breathe. As you design websites for 2018 and beyond, remember that less is more. Clean web design is popular, and visitors have come to expect simple, intuitive experiences that are engaging and distraction-free. Consistently deliver these experiences and you’ll make a name for yourself in the web design niche.

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