Minimalism Vs. Maximalism in Web Design: Why Less is (Not) Always More

Minimalism Vs. Maximalism in Web Design: Why Less is (Not) Always MoreMinimalism Vs. Maximalism in Web Design: Why Less is (Not) Always More

Minimalism has been dominating the creative field for years, leaving little room for out-of-the-box ideas and designs. What if we could add just a tiny bit of originality to spice things up?

Minimalism vs. Maximalism in Art, Life, and UX

There’s no way you could exist in modern society without experiencing minimalism. From tech to Marie Kondo, there’s no escaping its influence on culture or popular aesthetics. It governs modern-day design - in every industry.

The pillars of the minimalist aesthetic are pretty much the same in interior design, art, product design, and specifically, for purposes of this article, in web design. They include:

  • Neutral colors
  • Straight lines
  • Simple fonts
  • Clean layouts

In the world of web design, this makes sense up to a point. It’s the belief that less is more. Stripping away excess to reveal only what you need, and none of what you don’t. What more could you want for a great user experience?

Image of a simple white desk with a lamp, plant and clock. Text: Pillars of minimalism in web design: neutral colors, straight lines, simple fonts, and clean layouts.

Turns out, a lot - and increasing numbers of designers and businesses are looking for more flexibility.

Enter maximalism. Maximalism is minimalism’s punk rock younger sister. The “aesthetics of excess;” the idea that “more is more.”  The term has popped up in recent years as a reaction to minimalism’s seemingly-infinite popularity, but the aesthetic is a classic. When you think maximalism, think :

  • Bold colors
  • Unique fonts
  • Interesting patterns
  • Layered and repeated elements
  • And a heaping dose of individuality.

Maximalist design doesn’t need to be cluttered or distracting, but it does catch your eye. It’s fun, engaging, and alive and when it’s done right, it can set your brand apart without getting in the way of user experience.

After being largely shunned from design for the past decade, maximalism has started reappearing in all its kaleidoscopic glory. However, many people haven’t even considered maximalism as an option for their online presence.

Illustration of a woman's face with multiple graphic overlays: flower petals, geometric shapes, and a photo of a bicycle. Text: Pillars of maximalism in web design: bold colors, unique fonts, interesting patterns, layered and repeated elements, and individuality.

Not Sure What’s Right for Your Website? Two Questions to Consider

Minimalism can be beautiful, but it’s not a magic pill you can apply to your site to make it great. Even if your brand is simple, there are many factors to consider before slapping some boring, square boxes onto your site and calling it a day.

If you’re on the fence about your artistic direction, take a break from scrolling other brands’ sites and try starting with a few personal questions.

1. What Is Your Brand?  

In my close to a decade of experience in design, I can’t count how many times I’ve heard clients ask for a “clean,” Apple-like aesthetic for their site.

Sometimes this works just fine, but the reality is that perhaps your brand requires more.

For example, minimalism can work amazingly for a modern, clean brand with a beautiful product that needs few words to showcase it. (think: Apple).

Image apple watch as it appears on the Apple website. Text: Apple: Ultra-clean layout that lets the product photography do the talking. The luxury is in the simplicity.

In contrast, Gucci is a brand that is much more extravagant and energetic, using bold color palettes, bizarre and eye-catching imagery, and unique animations to highlight their luxury products. The kicker: their imagery is still clean, modern, and memorable - all the things brands really want when they request Apple-esque design.

Would this Gucci site have the same appeal to their audience if they had a design like Apple’s, or vice versa? Of course not! Viewers would likely be confused and unsure if they had even landed in the right place.

An image from the Gucci website showing colorfully-dressed women sitting in a gallery space with floral paintings and photographs. Text: Gucci: Unique and elaborate personality sells the product and brand.

Two completely different brands call for two completely different design styles for their digital presence. When you understand your brand and know your audience, build your design from there.

2. What Do Your Users Actually Need?

The most important aspect to design in the digital space is user experience (UX). Guiding your users through your site seamlessly to achieve a certain goal. No frustrations or irritation involved...hopefully.

Many designers feel that minimalism is the only design or UI style to achieve a successful and friendly user experience. In reality, visual design is only a part of the overall user experience. Think of UX as the umbrella with visual design or user interface (UI) underneath (among other things like strategy, content, etc.). Visual design alone does not create a great user experience.

While minimalism strips away the excess, leaving a clear path for users to funnel down, maximalism - or something between the two ends of the spectrum -  can actually offer a more beautiful, and even fun, experience that inspires users to keep exploring the site.

Minimalism or maximalism can be great for your overall user experience if done well and done for the right reasons. Your users, regardless of who they are, need an experience so great that it’s impossible for them to NOT follow as you guide them through your site. The visual design is just the icing on the cake.

How to Strike the Perfect UX Design Balance

I believe, in most cases, that brands can find a perfect balance between minimalism and maximalism to achieve beautiful, immersive design and top-notch user experience while pushing the limits of current trends.

Web design has everything to gain by blending minimalist UX principles and the bold, visually interesting elements found in maximalist design. By allowing the two to play in tandem, we have the opportunity to not only push ourselves to greater creativity, but also to let unique brands stand out from the competition and create an experience that sparks joy in users.

That’s all Marie Kondo could ask for, right?