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I am looking for examples of web sites that have a very spartan and minimal interface - mostly text and very few graphics or even styling - yet the user experience is good enough that users are not put off.

The most obvious examples that spring to mind are (early) google, craigslist, reddit and indeed.com . Can you suggest other sites that have a basic design?

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SPARTANS, WHAT IS YOUR PROFESSION. –  Ben Brocka Nov 11 '11 at 15:57
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...WAR! WAR! WAR! –  Roger Attrill Nov 11 '11 at 17:55
    
Not directly related, but lots of the issues and examples brought up here are related: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/12356/can-ugly-be-good-ux –  Ben Brocka Nov 11 '11 at 19:57
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15 Answers 15

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Wikipedia is the one that immediately springs to mind as having a visually very basic design that does not put people off. Despite this, it actually has a lengthy Manual of Style (MoS) and indeed Wikipedia is among the ten most visited websites worldwide.

The MoS presents Wikipedia's house style, to help editors produce articles with consistent, clear, and precise language, layout, and formatting. The goal is to make the encyclopedia easier and more intuitive to use. Consistency in language, style, and formatting promotes clarity and cohesion; this is especially important within an article.

As soon as you get past the first page, you never have to relearn how to interpret the content on another page

(Yes there's graphics - sometimes - if the article provides it, but that's not part of the design - that's part of the content)

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That's a great suggestion, and the fact that I missed it goes to show just how transparent the design is. Thank you. –  Chris T Nov 11 '11 at 10:30
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There are websites devoted entirely to collating examples of minimalist websites... so you'll find plenty of examples at Minimal Sites and Minimal Exhibit, among others.

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Cleartrip is an India based travel portal that is rated highly on user experience, and yet has a simple interface design.

In a category that has extremely cluttered websites focusing on way too many ads etc on their landing pages, Cleartrip has an extremely minimalist design and is the most user friendly OTA in India.

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Jeff Atwood's Coding Horror blog is a good example of a minimalist but highly functional interface.

  • Pictures are used only as part of the content.
  • The formatting consists of only blue links, black text, bold for titles, and gray boxes.
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Google has always used minimalist design, and the numbers say they're quite successful despite the common perception that Google is designed "by engineers".

Wikipedia has a good minimalist presentation within articles (though their front page is surprisingly cluttered).

The Amazon Redesign is surprisingly minimalist for a site that had previously been rather amazingly cluttered.

Many (good) mobile sites have very minimalist design as well; if you note, the release of Amazon's Tablet is the impetus for the above redesign to optimize for tablets. I think minimalist design is getting a good kickstart as people start to realize that mobile requires a minimalist presentation.

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A slightly contentious example:

:-)

http://www.useit.com/

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Looking at the website gives me no clue whatsoever whats its about nor a does it gives me a reason to start searching what the actual content is. –  Barfieldmv Nov 11 '11 at 10:47
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@PhillipW haha - yes - good one. Also - reasons explained here –  Roger Attrill Nov 11 '11 at 10:49
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It does, sort of, say what it does "useit.com: usable information technology" –  PhillipW Nov 11 '11 at 10:52
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Sadly stuck in the past when it comes to accessibility. It's not great for people with cognitive difficulties (e.g. dyslexia) for example. –  FinnNk Nov 11 '11 at 13:27
    
that is an appalling website. The only principle it employs is not using graphics, this however does not mean it is good/useable. –  NimChimpsky Nov 11 '11 at 16:34
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http://blog.fefe.de/ is a German blog about current events, software and IT security, written by a member of the Chaos Computer Club. It's among the most visited German blogs. (I read it daily.)

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I suspect The This Page Intentionally Left Blank Project does not put off anyone; almost empty, devoid of graphics (sort of), and right to the point. Also, the subpages are very sparse in content as well as styling.

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Surprised no one mentioned craigslist

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OP did :) (15 chars) –  jensgram Nov 11 '11 at 12:43
    
It can still be a useful answer if you provide some background on Craigslist and why it's such an interesting example. –  Patrick McElhaney Nov 11 '11 at 13:48
    
While craigslist has little style applied to it, it's a terribly busy and complicated system of navigation. I also wouldn't call it good UX, it's functional but not...pleasant. –  Ben Brocka Nov 11 '11 at 19:57
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One of my all time favorites: http://www.sinatrarb.com/ It does have one image, but it's so clean and easy to read.

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Check out If This Then That.

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fffound.com is my favourite minimal site.

It has virtually no 'design' or cruft on the UI - it's all about the images. Even the links are left default blue. It's social functionality is kept to the absolute minimum to be a functioning social network too.

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http://kernel.org/ is the homepage of the Linux kernel. It doesn't have got any pictures on it (except flags and a few pics on the bottom of the page, but none of them are significant), just a link to the FAQ, downloading/git links in a clear table, and some news.

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http://programmedlessons.org/java5/index.html is a great site for minimalist design that is also incredibly usable. It's certainly not flashy but it is very well laid out to provide great examples and reinforce important concepts as someone walks through the lessons.

It seems a bit too segmented as one clicks through the lessons when not actually learning the material but it is very nicely divided for someone who is learning the material. It is in small enough chunks to be manageable but not so small that the big picture is lost.

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