Call to Arms for Web Designers: Make Simplicity the Trend for 2010

by Tom Kenny (@tkenny)

When designers talk about web design trends, more often than not, they’re referring to a visual design style such as letterpress or gradients but a trend doesn’t have to be something you see.

So this doesn’t mean you have to resort to using a minimalistic design to achieve simplicity in web design. Far from it. Applying simplicity to your websites or designs can be as simple as removing unnecessary elements or by reducing the steps it takes to complete a specific task.

We live in a world where technology is becoming more and more advanced but the way we interact with it is becoming more and more simple. The current example are touch screens and the impending release of tablet computers. When you look at what touch screens are doing for usability, you realise they are removing any intermediate devices (keyboards and mice) and allowing you to interact with the device directly. A great example of making something easier through simplicity.

Less Really is More

The simpler we can make things for web users, the easier it will be for them to achieve the goals we want them to but more importantly that they want to. After all, you’re designing sites for users first and foremost, always.

Too much information can be confusing and off-putting to potential customers as everything is trying to vie for the visitors attention, away from what you want really want them to do. Book a holiday, buy a book or subscribe to your service, simplifying to focus more on these will increase conversion.

Perform user testing to see what features users are not using as much and don’t be afraid to scrap them. If they’re not using a particular feature it may just be in the way, cluttering up the their decision making and preventing them from reaching the final goal. Many companies are insistent on adding new features and more sections and pages to a site on a regular basis believing more choice is always better where in actual fact too much choice can become confusing.

Simplicity Success Stories

There’s no better way to show how simplicity can make a difference than to look at some examples of how simplicity has helped create success. While not all of the following examples are directly related to web design, there are plenty of lessons that can be learnt from their successes. They all have the same thing in common Simplicity in design has helped them achieve greater success.

Apple Products

First the iMac, an all-in-one computer that is mostly screen. In terms of computer design it is very simple as it combines the computer and the monitor which avoids extra cabling in the connection between the two and only require one power cable instead of two.

The iPhone is controlled entirely by the screen. There aren’t any superfluous buttons to bring up a menu, go back or even any buttons for a keyboard, only a single button (of course, there are buttons for silencing and volume control but that’s it) to bring you back to your list of apps. This approach to simplicity is one of the main design decisions why Apple are taking control of the smartphone market.

Nintendo Wii

The common standard in video game controllers before the Wii was a two-handed ergonomic design with numerous buttons. Nintendo saw this ‘complicated’ design as a reason why most people don’t play video games. They released a controller with a familiar design to that of a television remote control which is instantly recognisable. It’s usable with one hand and plays by recognising physical movements. Something that everyone does everyday, making it instantly usable through a simple design. After all, what’s more simple than waving your arms about?

With Nintendo having sold more consoles than their competitors this generation, it is no surprise to see Sony and Microsoft gaining inspiration from their success with simplicity and will be releasing their own motion controlled devices soon.


By far the simplest form of social networking on the web. While it hasn’t achieved commercial success yet, it certainly has captured the minds of it’s users and mostly because of how simple it is. At least at the lowest level.

‘Tweets’ consist of a maximum of 140 characters people who follow you see what you post and you see what people you follow are saying and that’s basically it. Simple but effective.

Further Reading

Remember, simplicity is the key.

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by Tom Kenny

I’m a freelance web designer and front-end developer with 9 years of experience designing for the web. Follow me on Twitter here.