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E.g. Google has minimal web design (just a search box). How do you define minimal design? How does this relate to minimalism in general? Is Facebook also minimalism at least from the beginning?

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5 Answers 5

As a style, people often describe very thin lines and neutral shades of color as minimal. If you emphasize everything, nothing gets emphasized. Minimalist art is about emphasis. I suppose you could relate this to web design by saying minimalist design emphasizes content (text, video, sound).

Minimalism in design sprung from WW2. There was a new emphasis on mass production after the war and designers rejected the heavy ornamentation of the past. That's where Helvetica comes from. It's a very "neutral" typeface. It works with everything. It's like wearing jeans. Modernism is basically a lack of ornamentation in design and minimalism is an artistic movement.

As far as advantages and disadvantages, that depends on the audience's background. Your taste changes over time, especially where you focus your attention. If you listen to a lot of music, for example, your taste for music becomes more sophisticated and you might dislike what's played on the radio. The more design one learns, the greater preference for simplicity.

We live in a complex world. Not everything can be simple. Expert users are going to want more complexity and features as they learn the system. Users want the system to be simple and easy to learn just starting out.

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First Question: Google keeps their design minimalist because they want search to be easy and "fun". Second Question: A minimalist design shows data in the most efficient way as possible. Example: Google shows there search box in the middle, different google services on the top, and keeps your account information on the right hand side. Easy to use for the user (When you search on google they show this search tool for advance users)...

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When thinking about Remote Controls (RC) and UIs of the kind...

Maximalist RCs had a lot of functionality, flexibility and versatility available, as compared to its minimalist counterpart with a really small subset of that functionality.

However most of the time those maximalist UIs wouldn't be touched by the target audience, they wouldn't learn how to use the RC and would spend the same buttons than in the minimalist one.

So in my own terms, flexibility, flexibility and versatility come as a trade off of ease of use.

I'm pretty sure Sony Engineers were delighted by all the functions available through the RC, but that wasn't the common user, and the RC itself allowed the user to perform activities that involved a lot of use cases that were seldom used, incurring in time, resources and manufacturing costs that were not relevant for the RC user niche.

Minimal design would put first the a basic-function-set of an UI on hardware or software rather than flexibility and versatility.

Maximal design would put first flexibility and versatility of an UI on hardware or software rather than ease of use.

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Minimalism as a design preference (as opposed to an artistic/aesthetic preference) comes from this thought process:

  1. You want a user to perform a specific task (perform a search, provide an email address, sign up for your service, etc.)
  2. Statistically speaking, you're only going to get them to do ONE task, even if you offer them lots of tasks that they can do, so...
  3. You may as well make it so they can't do anything other than that task.

Now, this doesn't imply that all Minimalism in this sense looks like Google's search page, or even that it has to follow this black text on a white page approach. Aggressively simplified pages, like teaser pages for online services, or splash pages for services like Square are built with this idea in mind that you should steer the user to completing a single, simple task.

Now, as far as pros/cons go, which is the heart of your question:

  • Minimalism is GREAT for starting out / converting initial users to your service and getting them started, because it allows you to get that initial participation out of them and encourages them to keep going and committing more and more to your service / site.
  • Minimalism isn't so good as the user starts desiring more and more control and flexibility of what they want to do -- especially if they need things done a certain way for their own reasons (corporate oversight, attaching a system to another system, etc.), but it's hard to say the design is the problem so much as it is a lack of consideration for all use cases vs. the desire for minimalism.
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People behave differently on the web: less attention, skimming rather than reading. People scan pages visually. More widely, people are overloaded with information. Minimalism reduces clutter, so while it doesn't in itself make important things stand out (and there will always be a role for proper structuring of information), it does help to make the signal to noise ratio better.

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