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There is this question that is in my mind for a long time, and I personally feel I'm not pretty good when it comes to user experience, so because of that I had decided to stick to minimalistic approach when it comes to designing my apps.

So keeping with the trends, I am wondering to which extent is keeping the design as simple as it can be? Does it really effect the users who visit/use my app?

Or does having some really fancy designs does pay off? That is, I get better user interaction.

When it comes to be making some Web Apps, I've for long decides to stick to simple bootstrap or self made designs. Should one be really sticking to this kind of approach?

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I recently wrote on article about this for UX matters entitled "Do more pretty and professional looking websites result in an increase in conversions?"

Firstly, tread carefully. There are lots of examples of this unintended effect where conversions have decreased despite the visual impact of the change being qualitatively positive.

  • Remember Digg.com? When Digg went through a radical redesign in 2010, it suffered a whopping and mind-blowing 26% loss of site traffic [Lardinois, 2010].

  • Target redesign [Usertesting.com, 2011] in 2011 resulted in less revenue and a myriad of technical problems

  • Marks & Spencer spent 2 years developing their new site – and reportedly spent an enormous £150m on it. However, despite looking classier, its online sales plunged by 8.1% in the first quarter following the launch of its new website [McDonnell, 2014]

That being said, there is a lot of merit in the psychology of "we like prettier things". Prettier people. Prettier objects. Prettier products. Equally we also trust them more. The Head designer at Mint, explains in the redesign of Mint.com: “A big part of it was just does it look credible. Does it feel credible?” [Putorti, 2013]

What I would say is that "fancy design" is different than user experience. User experience is proven to increase conversions. A fancy design isn't but it can certainly help, at least, intangibly.

  • But isn't it like many or most of the users knowing or unknowingly relate design with user experience, it's like you buy what you see, not how it is; most of the times. And I somehow agree with you, and facts speak such as you've citied an example of Digg. But then is it OK if I keep telling myself, focus on simplicity and work on experience to engage more users.? – Arfan Jan 7 '15 at 8:57
  • Ultimately Arfan, concentrate on the user experience. Break down the definition of user experience - it's their experience with the online platform of which design is only a small part. Their journey, the way they move through the site, take in the content, engage with your site, are persuaded by your site are all inclusive of this terminology. – DLM Jan 7 '15 at 9:39
  • I now understand this well, thank you. Maybe I am thinking way to much about this the other way when the thing I should be concentrating and working more on is, whether or not my site provides the user a place where they are not bound to designs but how they get engaged with the content and what is it, that brings them and me as an administrator or a developer closer so that I understand them well. – Arfan Jan 7 '15 at 19:50
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Starting as a designer with a fresh psychology degree and little design skills whatsoever (but a huge passion for design) I stuck to minimalistic designs even when it was not fancy, way before it was cool. In my own time I learned how to play this card right so that my designs didn't seem boring and blank, but rather sophisticated and elegant.

It is always best to stick to what you feel true or more comfortable with, this way you will invest enough duende to your designs. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duende_%28art%29 And duende is the only thing that creates an emotional design, something users can relate to. Whatever has duende, should pay off.

So whatever you like, be it maximalistic layered designs or stylishly minimal ones, follow it. You will need a success criteria for your own work anyway, so use your own aesthetic standards to decide what is good, what is working. In other words, be your own number one user. When you feel it's time to make the design more decorated, then it probably is.

What is cool about times we live in, however, that this is the age of minimal design, and you can be trendy while being true to yourself. And the limit of how minimal the design can be before it starts feel dismally empty have been pushed significantly just recently by the Material Design concept and all the new technologies that are conceptually in line with it.

How to surf minimal design in a cool way and feel more secure about it:

Japanese Aesthetics

Material Design Guidelines by Google

I also wrote a long answer on a related question about Minimal Design some time ago, so it might be something of interest. https://ux.stackexchange.com/a/69982/57766

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    This was inspiring. Honestly material design did roam in my mind when posting this question. Thanks a lot. – Arfan Jan 7 '15 at 19:45
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Minimalistic.

I say this because I have always hated interfaces with thousands of effects for no apparent reason, flashy colors/too many colors, and things like that. I hate it because it is just too much. While the developers could have been working on the software itself, they put way too much effort into it, making it look far too unprofessional.

Take for example the Windows 8 search menu vs the Windows 7 start menu:

Win8 Metro

VS.

Win7 Start Menu

While the metro search menu uses little colors and very few effects, the aero menu uses many gradients, shines, and 3D effects, which are not only useless and distracting, but take more time to develop while they could have been working on more important things. I recommend going with minimal because it is the easiest on the eyes, and gets the message across just as well if not better than a fancy one.

With that said, do not ditch effects entirely, just use them subtly, and make your gradients (If you use them) look decent, without harsh color changes (E.G. for red, use a red-crimson gradient).


Good Luck!

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    I disagree with your example. IMO, Aeso was very efficiently designed to look physical yet not distracting. And don't try to minimalize too much. (When I first used Windows 8, I barely noticed that mouse-gesture menu that opens Start Menu and search, because it was literally hidden. Same for the search itself, from the Start menu I only realized there was a search function when I started typing, after minutes of trying to summon a text box. And I consider myself a fairly competent user). Make it minimal on details not feature communication. P.S.: Windows 8 is a disaster, IMO. – Kroltan Jan 7 '15 at 17:41
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If Google changed their homepage to fancy design from the current simple one, would it make you like it more, thus visit more? Answer is obviously a big "No".

Similarly, UX of your website should be dictated by your target users' needs. So, I would say, design approach (whether minimalist or fancy) is not the main criterion on improving the UX of your website.

Example of your target users' needs would differ based on but not limited to following criteria:

  • Primary browsing devices (laptop, smarthpone, feature phone?). -> responsive design, adaptive design, wap page design etc.
  • internet connection type (mobile broadband, high-speed home broadband, gprs?) -> heavy images and scripts would be ok for home broadband but not so much for GPRS or even slower mobile broadband for example etc.

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