Less is More: 5 Key Elements of Minimalist Mobile App Design
As the old adage goes, there is elegance in simplicity – which is exactly why the concept of minimalist mobile app design is so relevant.
We live in a digital era where we deal with countless ads every day, besides emails, messages, alerts, app notifications, and more.
Sometimes it’s tough to focus, and the irritation we experience from an app that’s difficult to use is multiplied.
Graphic and web designers need to know how to make the user experience for their apps smooth and simple. Otherwise, potential users may become exhausted trying to use your app and uninstall it altogether.
Knowing what qualities make up a minimalist app is paramount to achieving a positive user experience.
1. Negative Space
The first quality you should incorporate into your app is plenty of negative space and white space.
When referring to white space, we don’t mean that it needs to be the color white.
Rather, you need to leave some blank space in your app for four reasons.
- First, note that white space helps eliminate unnecessary distractions. Though you may be tempted to cram as many buttons, widgets, and witty copy in your app as possible, remember: less is more.
Ask yourself, “Does this element enhance the user’s core use cases, or does it distract from them?”
- Second, know that adding white space makes it easier to find buttons and input fields. I personally have used apps before that were far too busy and I couldn’t find the “submit” button. It was maddening.
- Third, adding white space makes your app easier to navigate. Apps are more commonly run on mobile devices as opposed to desktops with large monitors, and screen space is a scarce commodity.
Some people find it difficult to tap and navigate through apps with too many small buttons crammed together.
- Fourth, apps with empty white space look good. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, removing some design elements can improve the aesthetics of your app.
2. A Simple Color Palette
The colors you use in the overall color scheme of your app has a strong influence on how a user feels when they are using it.
Your color palette is also a factor regarding how easy–or how difficult–your app is to use.
The Internet has been around long enough now that any competent website or app designer knows not to assault their audience’s eyes with discordant, flashy colors. From time to time you’ll still find websites and apps that make it difficult to use.
People are in a hurry, and they typically want to use an app to get information or receive service as quickly as possible.
If you have a terrible color palette, they may have a harder time reading the data and information in your app, which slows down and irritates the user.
Keeping a simple color palette with fewer than a handful of colors will aid your minimalist design.
3. Clear Font
The font you select for your app also plays a large role in a clean, minimalist design.
Some designers choose fonts that supposedly make their app look fancier, higher-quality, and more intelligent. But what really ends up happening is that they alienate portions of their users who find the font hard to read.
Consider that some fraction of your users and audience may have vision problems and choosing a font that’s too crazy or too small may make it nearly impossible for them to see.
There are exceptions to this rule.
For example, if you wrote an app that provided a service or use case to someone in the wedding industry, you may get away with using a fancy cursive font.
But be forewarned: use it sparingly.
For instance, you could incorporate a hard-to-read font (at your own risk) by only using it for headlines, and leaving the body of the text in an easy-to-read font.
4. Flat Design
Another key element of minimalism in your app is a flat design, as opposed to a deep, hierarchical design.
This concept applies mostly to the navigational structure of your app and reduces the amount of work a user needs to do to achieve their use case.
A hierarchical design features menus beyond menus and sub-menus.
While, on the surface, a hierarchical design may seem more organized, it forces the user to tap, search, and navigate more.
The user may tap the wrong menu or not understand where the information they need is.
For instance, just look at how Google intentionally buries its privacy settings.
It feels as though Google buried privacy settings in a hierarchy of sub-menus to make it difficult to turn them off.
Adopting a flatter design makes your app easier to use and promotes minimalism.
The flat design makes the application’s content easier to digest for the user. Information architecture improves the UX because content that’s both well-organized and well-structured makes the app easier to navigate.
5. Limiting Choices Per Step
You also want to limit the number of choices a user has for each step of the app.
If you’re creating a food-delivery app, the entire process should focus on gaining five pieces of information from the user (food order, delivery location, payment method, payment data, and customer feedback).
Instead of making one large form for user input, it’s better to take each piece of information in a limited step-by-step fashion.
That way, your app has a chance to first vet and sanitize data before moving on to the next step.
Also, this prevents the user from feeling overwhelmed by an intimidating and lengthy order form.
Minimalism is a key component of modern application and UX design.
But, unfortunately, it isn’t as easy to implement as it seems.
Keeping the aforementioned pillars of minimalist mobile app design will help ensure your app project serves its users as best as possible.
If you have any personal anecdotes or experience with minimalist mobile app design, we invite you to share your thoughts by commenting below.