The end of minimal web design ( for now )

Louis Cox

New Member
Hi,

I wondered what designers views are on the coming changes in web design,

Recently we have had a period of web publishing platforms making life simple - minimal web design has ruled, and tools like wordpress have meant great GD but pretty simplistic web pages - excluding eCommerce sites I guess as they do their own thing.
It looks as if thats going to change with a move back to less complicated website structure ( i.e. not code heavy platforms like wordpress ) with more component or service use, and more complicated front end design to be done. Styles like mobile first, Modular, one page mean generally less linear design will be required.
 

wac

Senior Member
I don't really follow your question. Why would WordPress mean pages had to be simplistic. I also don't think minimalism is going anywhere. If anything, it's a growing trend.
 
not likely those type day comes in the future because almost everyone have own thinking so few people like a minimal or simple design and few people like an heavy design.
 

Louis Cox

New Member
I don't really follow your question. Why would WordPress mean pages had to be simplistic. I also don't think minimalism is going anywhere. If anything, it's a growing trend.

Sure - its a general question, I don't intend for someone to have the right answer.

WordPress and similar publishing platforms have advantages and drawbacks. Their biggest drawback is that the templating system forces a certain look and functionality. Its true, you can do anything, but the further from the core intended use you get the harder it is. Services like https://prismic.io will I think take over, freeing web designers to make more unbound websites both visually and functionally. Basically you're abstracting the CMS stuff, making life much easier.

Minimal web design is a result of restrictions in the building of sites. Commercially, its far easier to make a minimal design, as its never going to break. If you want one that looks great, and plays to the strength of every device, its much tougher. Templating doesn't lend itself to this. Minimal design is starting to give way to much more complex stuff.
 

Louis Cox

New Member
not likely those type day comes in the future because almost everyone have own thinking so few people like a minimal or simple design and few people like an heavy design.
Sure, everyone has their own ideas, I get what you are saying.

Id argue that purely by numbers minimal is the most popular choice for the simple reason that people want to make money making websites, and the way to guarantee turnover is making a simple uniform product. Simple is great until you get a saturation of it, then you need to differentiate what you have - which is what we are starting to see now. Mobile first, one page websites, modular - these are significantly different in their approach.
Yes, you could use a publishing platform to recreate these - but it would be simpler to farm out your structural needs, like user login, content management, leaving you to concentrate on a web page that plays to the strengths of your user device. Non minimal design is a risky business because it can be time consuming, once you eliminate that risk, the game changes completely. Publishing platforms start to become redundant and designers have a different set of challenges to deal with. My question is how are designers dealing with that?
 

Paul Murray

Ultimate Member
The issue with Wordpress (at least for me) is it's not a true CMS, it's more of an all in one-solution for managing a website, hence it's popularity. With it being the largest website platform being used, it makes sense that the sites running on it will influence trends as the theme designers take bits nad pieces from other sites and combine them. It's why nearly every site 5 years ago had the standard "large hero carousel, followed by three columns of text with an image above" layout.

On the subject of the simple pages, I reckon this is because so many pages use a plain 'article + sidebar' layout. When you're designing a template and you have to plan for the future, you're forced to keep things simple so the end user can create any number of pages they want.

I've gone right off Wordpress as a platform now. I have a few sites running on it still, but it's a mess to maintain and I'm keen to move away. Updates require a sandbox where you can test them first to check your plugins aren't going to corrupt your database before you deploy the update to your live site. Add to that the code is bloated and slow. Now I use Perch for managing sites. It gives you complete control over the markup and design of any site you use it with because it's just for managing content like text, images, etc. I've used it for blogs, single-page sites, even a letting agent website with 100+ properties, and it was stupidly fast to develop with.

I think (I haven't actually researched this but I might) the trend for minimalism in web design likely came about from the mobile-first philosophy. Now, so many sites run and function like apps thanks to things like NodeJS and Ruby on Rails that it makes sense for their interface design to be as simple as possible, much like a phone app. Flat design and the fall of skeuomorphism probably came from this. In isolation on a page or a mobile screen, a single flat button is more noticeable. It may be lacking shadow to indicate it's clickable, but the context, placement and anchor text will likely steer the user in the right direction. Take it out of that context, however, and throw several other 'flat' elements on the screen like so many people do and you have a usability nightmare. When designers start noticing things aren't working, we want to change them and you get a new trend emerging.
 

Louis Cox

New Member
The issue with Wordpress (at least for me) is it's not a true CMS, it's more of an all in one-solution for managing a website, hence it's popularity. With it being the largest website platform being used, it makes sense that the sites running on it will influence trends as the theme designers take bits nad pieces from other sites and combine them. It's why nearly every site 5 years ago had the standard "large hero carousel, followed by three columns of text with an image above" layout.

Id agree - its morphed into a publishing platform. Fair play to them, all those things are a pain to organise. Its dominance in the Design industry is not a good thing. If I had a pound for every Design agency website Ive seen that you can tell at first glance is a wordpress site, Id be sipping my Makers Mark in a private jet. Established web design companies Ive found often have their own systems, but design agencies moving from print to digital, and there are many of those, want to back the right horse. It seems to be like supporting Man Utd. And all the employees have to toe the line.

I see your point about mobile first, I hadn't thought of it in that way. I think is more of an opportunity to say lets design for this, what can it do and what can we make, and then use the larger formats as certainly a cue but not simply an upscaling of the original design. I guess you are right that some people will inevitably use it as a short cut in dev time. I guess its a combination of things, but however its got there, it seems to be moving on.

You sound like more of a dev though, Im also wondering about how GDs will deal with it - making a layout for something thats going in a grid, great. Its not complicated. When you have to think outside of the box - pun not intended, do you have to sit there and learn all of the ramifications of coding? because I cant see them doing that, but you want to be forging ahead with new stuff, not just churning out the same old thing.
 

@GCarlD

Well-Known Member
I'm not a web designer but I do design for web. I don't know how to code to any degree worth mentioning. I think it's almost a trend in itself for anything that becomes too popular to eventually become unpopular, especially amongst specialists in the field. I find a huge reason people, whether it be clients or designers, choose to use WordPress is cost effectiveness. It always comes down to money. Wordpress is cheap, quick and fairly straightforward to use/ build/ simple edits/ customise etc. There are so many themes and templates available, that unless you are hired to build something completely bespoke, you will more often than not find the type of visuality and functionality you require from a website, and with a few adjustments, you can have something pretty much as you intended.

It would be interesting to know how often web designers get hired to design a completely custom made website from scratch for £1000+, as opposed to less than half the price and time it would be to create a WP website. I guess this would come down to the clients the designer may have, but I find large companies and small businesses are quite parallel when it comes to money in terms of; one has to keep costs down in order to maximise profits and the other tends to have smaller budgets and just can't afford to spend around a grand or more on a completely bespoke website.

More often than not, it would have to be something quite remarkable that cannot be achieved with the use of a theme/template.

PS. 9 years ago, I was employed by a company to design web templates, specifically e-commerce templates, and I mean the full package.
 

Paul Murray

Ultimate Member
You sound like more of a dev though, Im also wondering about how GDs will deal with it - making a layout for something thats going in a grid, great. Its not complicated. When you have to think outside of the box - pun not intended, do you have to sit there and learn all of the ramifications of coding? because I cant see them doing that, but you want to be forging ahead with new stuff, not just churning out the same old thing.
I certainly wouldn't call myself a developer, I'm a designer first and foremost, but ultimately it's the developer who has to get what we come up with to work. Most of the time, the developers I work with are keen for a challenge because it gives them a chance to learn new things too. However, timescales, budgets and deadlines all come into play, so you need to find a balance between something that's creatively new and something that can be built and tested in a matter of days.

It's useful to at least know what sort of technology is freely available so you can try and push boundaries. You don't need to learn to code, but having some knowledge of how things work is useful, even if you just understand some of the developer jargon during meetings. However, if you can code, something like Processing or a 3D framework like Three.js is useful for trying and presenting ideas. Let's say you're proposing a 3D data visualisation app for an event. With coding knowledge you could knock up something like this – https://threejs.org/examples/#canvas_lines_sphere – as a proof of concept that your team can discuss. You could even code up amends and tweaks on the fly and test them straight away. This is much more effective than spending hours in Illustrator or wherever and having to try and explain to people how it would work, then your developer having to go away and get something like that working before you even know if it's feasible.
 

bigdave

Well-Known Member
In wades dave the wordpress developer... :mad:

Pretty much only problem with Wordpress is that it makes web designers lazy. As a newbie web designer, you go for wordpress because plugins or widgets can fill in the gaps in your knowledge. Problem is you get used to that and don't bother learning how to do something properly. And this is where designers begin moaning about wordpress making their site slow and bloated. People need to stop relying on 3rd party plugins to do everything and learn how to write php properly. If there's a WP plugin out there to do something, you can bet your life there's a tutorial on how to do it with a fraction of the code from within the functions.php file, thus eliminating the need for a bazillion files to be loaded with each page. The same can be said for twitter and facebook feeds. There's no need to query the API on every page load, the WP chron can do it every hour and update a field in the database to be queried.

This brings me nicely on to WP's one true limitation.. complex database queries. The way the framework handles queries is quite linear, in that the server will query the database return that string of information and then go back to run the next query. On a normal site this is just dandy but when complex database queries need to be run and then cross checked with other queries, things can slow down. The closest I've come to breaking wordpress is The Wedding Affair (look it up if you like) which is a directory of around 10,000 suppliers and event listings as well as a ticketing system and e-commerce elements. The client has added a few of their own "touches" shall we say but with some clever database caching and tidying up, it still performs exceptionally well (that being said, if I were to build that site again I'd probably look to something like laravel to do the heavy lifting).

I don't think minimalism in web design is driven by restrictions in frameworks such as wordpress primarily because I don't see any restrictions in frameworks, only restrictions in how people think this should look or behave. I think if you looked at my portfolio of work, you would agree that on the whole I have a fairly minimalistic approach to site design but very little of my portfolio would fall into the classic WP template style.

It's interesting that Paul mentions Perch, I know a couple of devs who use it now and swear by it as a natural progression from Wordpress. I've looked at it along with ModX and Drupal in the past but have always ben too busy to really get stuck in. I think if I'm honest though, I'm happy with the way that WP performs for me and my clients so rather than look to replace it with something similar, I'd rather invest my free time (if there is such a thing) in developing my saleable skills, maybe learn a bit more Magento or something.
 

bigdave

Well-Known Member
It would be interesting to know how often web designers get hired to design a completely custom made website from scratch for £1000+, as opposed to less than half the price and time it would be to create a WP website.

This is a common misconception that Wordpress is all pre-made templates and that sites are put together in a matter of minutes. 90% of my work is bespoke design and development starting at around £1000+. From past experience I now refuse small budget jobs using a prebuilt template for a couple of reasons:
1. The client doesn't put any value on their web presence so in turn doesn't value what I'm doing and will be a pain.
2. Themes are designed to work in a particular way, no theme is perfect so will involve some level of bastardisation and by the time you've finished, it'd have been easier to do it from scratch.
 

@GCarlD

Well-Known Member
This is a common misconception that Wordpress is all pre-made templates and that sites are put together in a matter of minutes. 90% of my work is bespoke design and development starting at around £1000+. From past experience I now refuse small budget jobs using a prebuilt template for a couple of reasons:
1. The client doesn't put any value on their web presence so in turn doesn't value what I'm doing and will be a pain.
2. Themes are designed to work in a particular way, no theme is perfect so will involve some level of bastardisation and by the time you've finished, it'd have been easier to do it from scratch.

Totally get what you're saying, and of course, if you have clients that are happy to spend over a grand on a website tailor made for their business, which is turn adds to their value, then it's a no-brainer to do it all from scratch. But I was just interested to know how often you get clients with budgets of that size, which enables you to build their website from scratch?

The theme and template option is not the right route to go down if your clients brief requires you to edit/ customise the chosen theme beyond what it was made for. There would be little point in using a theme in the first place.

It takes me a good week to put together a WP website, no way can I do it within a day let alone minutes, although I'm not the most experienced with WP. But building a site from scratch would, without doubt, take far longer compared to using a theme in the way it was intended, with a few simple modifications if required.
 

Louis Cox

New Member
In wades dave the wordpress developer... :mad:

Im not having a go at anyone on the coal face - its more about finding out what people are doing, and what they are going to do. Nobody is wrong as such. WP is a good it of kit in the right hands, nobody is denying that, but its the ubiquitousness now that I have a bit of a problem with, but you know - Im not crying into my pint over it, its more grumbling.

Generally I think there is a core catchment area for WP and similar publishing platforms - and Im not so much worried about that. I think its a fair statement that its extended well beyond that. Lots of websites are being made that simply don't need it, but we are starting to get to the position where everybody is using it and its forcing hands. Where once people used to ask for FEDs with HTML and CSS, now they ask for WP skills, and GDs to have extensive experience in WP as well. Its great if you want to do that, but not so much if you want more creative freedom.

But my aim isn't a massive grudge against WP, I think there are some serious changes going on, and I wondered how people are moving into that really.
 

Louis Cox

New Member
I certainly wouldn't call myself a developer,

Three is interesting, Ive had a look at it. Some of the processing stuff is really conceptual, but hasn't it got a JS leg now? P5? I cant remember...JS is undergoing a Cambrian explosion of tools, systems and effects. Publishing platforms are like a multitool, when you could be using a specific tool for a specific job. But you have to be aware of that, and plan for it. Hence why I have been wondering what designers and devs are actually doing to get that ball rolling.

Inevitably these things takes longer than a few days I think. I know what you mean and not everyone is in that position. But its at the planning stage that it has to be done. If you can see a slot for it, its just a lot more possible now I think.
 

Paul Murray

Ultimate Member
I know a couple of devs who use it now and swear by it as a natural progression from Wordpress.
It's worth a few hours of your time, especially now you can download it and start development before needing a license. For the most part you use xml tags to insert content, or you can write your own PHP if you want custom functionality. It excels for small sites or retrofitting an existing site, and I love that I'm not giving a client a dashboard with all the bells and whistles. They can edit what I allow them to edit and that's it.
I've looked at it along with ModX and Drupal in the past but have always ben too busy to really get stuck in.
This is something I've found with agencies they tend to use their preferred CMS because that's what the dev team know how to use. Switching to a new platform is a pain, so I guess many just stick with what they know.
 
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