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Design Tips for a Cleaner User Interface

Minimalism is the design concept where you build interfaces using only the most important elements. These websites often come out looking very clean and intuitive for users. The style has been adopted in many different fashions and today influences much of the modern web.

I want to share a few design tips towards building minimalist user interfaces. A cluttered web design harbors resentment in the eyes of many visitors. Too much information overload and you’ll send people running away! But with just the right balance you can put together exceptional user interfaces which are easy to build and even easier to use.

Plan for Necessity

When designing a mockup for a web layout be sure to plan each element in advance. Make sure your website is utilizing each bit of space with important details. A clean interface will happily leave extra open white space if this is beneficial to the overall experience.

I suggest making a sketch first of all the components your website should contain. Ask yourself if each area is really vital to the overall design. Do you need a sidebar section on the homepage? Does this contain important links every visitor will need to access? There is no right or wrong answer as it varies between project.

But you should have a keen internal sense of what feels right and what feels wrong. When you can understand which page elements are necessary then it makes your job a whole lot easier. Each small page section should fit into the bigger picture like a puzzle piece.

Paint with Basic Colors

This isn’t a hard and fast rule to follow but it does help during the initial design phases. When you look over other similar clean web layouts you’ll notice many of them cater to a specific color scheme. Black, white, and grey are very commonly held together with 1 or 2 other primary colors.

When you can start designing or even wireframing on a simple color scheme it leaves more room to focus on content. There is always a chance later to change colors and append new styles. But focusing primarily on the clean interface will always bring out your most talented work.

Make Navigation Simple

Simplicity is another word I like to associate with clean design. Users on your website should feel like it has been baby-proofed for non-techies. All page text should be fairly large and easy to read from a great distance.

Even your navigation links should be very straightforward and easy to pick up just skimming the page. I lean towards using extra styles such as tabs, toolbars, dropdowns, and other fancy design methods. This can become one focal point on your page and it works brilliantly paired with a navigation scheme.

But alternatively you could employ minimalist ideas into website navigation. Links formed towards the top or bottom of the page naturally draw attention from wandering eyes. People are conditioned to expect a top and/or bottom navigation. Putting on any additional colors or textures is really just to please user aesthetics.

Clear Out Redundant Areas

You may find yourself looking over a design to pinpoint a few areas of duplicate content. In some situations like a sidebar or footer block this redundant setup is helpful. Users don’t always want to scroll towards the top just to access specific links.

But your page space is likely small and there isn’t room for so much content. Almost everything you are displaying should be unique, and oftentimes links to other web pages(blog posts, press releases, videos…). Filter out the redundant ideas and replace them with newer more useful ones. Your visitors will get much more out of the experience.

Match your Page Elements

Using the new CSS3 properties it’s so easy to create many of the difficult effects we all love. Box shadows and rounded corners are two of my favorites – but there are so many others to list. When you are styling default HTML elements like forms and buttons you should pay attention to consistency.

I like cleaner interfaces which keep the default styles in-tact. This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy a customized layout. However I find that between Windows/OSX/Linux there are many differences in browsers and rendering engines. Unless you can test your site everywhere the majority of your audience will appreciate a linear experience.

Plenty of options are available for web developers looking to customize these elements. Form input fields are a great example because it’s difficult getting a consistent design between text inputs, dropdowns, sliders, radio boxes, and textareas.


Hopefully these tips can get you thinking with a minimalists mindset. Designing a clean user interface is actually a lot more work than it appears to be. You have to put yourself in the user’s shoes and see your website from their eyes. It can take months of practice but the artistic direction is phenomenal. If you have similar ideas for designing clean minimalist websites let us know your thoughts in the post discussion area below.

The Bottom Line for Projects

Working as a freelance web designer I find myself naturally jumping from project-to-project. This quick pace comes with the lifestyle and requires some serious dedication. You cannot get lost in the royalties of extra touch-ups and recoloring textures.

You need to understand how to freelance working with a bottom line. This should be your ultimate goal to achieve on every project. When working for many clients it will be difficult jumping through hoops to accommodate design choices. But in this article I’d like to share a few tips for setting your bottom line and sticking to it.

Envision the Final Product

Before you jump into coding or even open Adobe Photoshop, it may be worthwhile to plan a concept in your mind. If you can see the finished layout in your head then it’s just a matter of fleshing out the details. You’ll save loads of time going back to fix smaller mistakes if you have a plan prepared.

But having a solid finished product ahead of time also keeps you on a single course. You will know exactly what needs to be done and which steps are necessary to get there. No need to side-step your todo list and jump around on extra cool features. Sticking to a tight layout will keep you focused, working dedicated to a single end result.

Understanding Motivation

It’s important to understand why you’re even working on projects in the first place. As a new startup idea the concept is more confusing. When you are building a website for yourself it’s more about building a name, getting traffic and setting up a powerful brand.

But when freelancing it’s 99% about the money. You can still do amazing artwork and make payment your top priority – meaning your work quality will not suffer. But you must be honest with yourself about why you’re freelancing and what the ultimate goal should be. Is it necessary you freelance to keep paying bills, or more like extra income?

Either way you can use this motivation to keep everything moving. When you are stuck on a project and feel lost take a quick break and reflect on the bigger picture. This will reset your perspective on things and hopefully you won’t get caught up in all the small details.

Disregard Perfection

There is definitely no such thing as “perfect” in web design. Or any field of design for that matter. Going into a project with the expectation that it be perfect is absurd. Design is very subjective in its own way – meaning beauty is within the eye of the beholder.

If you aren’t expecting a perfect design from the beginning then you will have an easier time accepting whatever you can build! Because with such a perfectionist mindset you’ll undoubtedly end up destroying your own work with over-analyzation. Go into every project with no predetermined expectations and you’ll be surprised with each outcome.

Stick Within your Boundaries

All too often I see freelancers jumping at any project they can land. Even if the job requires some aspect which they are not familiar with – and this will generally lead to disaster.

You can’t promise work to a client if you are almost totally unfamiliar with some bits and pieces. However you also shouldn’t be afraid to try new ideas which are within your realm of control. For example, if you are already familiar with PHP but have never built an avatar upload form you shouldn’t be discouraged from accepting such a project. You can use your existing knowledge of PHP and tutorials around the web to figure out a finished product that works.

A good rule of thumb is to stay away from techniques you know nothing about. If you have never made a vector in Adobe Illustrator then you shouldn’t promise anything like that in a client’s work. Even with the myriad of tutorials out there, it’s just not feasible to learn an entirely new piece of software on a project deadline.

Accept the Finished Work

One really tough aspect for freelancers is when the project finally comes to a close. Right before you upload all the finished pages, you can’t help but second guess a few choices. Maybe you could flip through a different color scheme or reposition the ad banner?

Thinking like this will keep you holed up in front of the computer screen for too long. Meeting your bottom line is a signal that all the project requirements have been met. Once everything is done you shouldn’t feel attached to the work. This will only make it more difficult to accept the finished piece and move onto your next client.

Overall it comes down to business. Remember that your bottom line is to get paid and provide a service. Once your services have been rendered and the payment is received it’s time to move onto your next gig. If you live for the edge and excitement this lifestyle can be very rewarding! You can get your name on some really cool projects, all while learning new web technologies and getting paid to do so.


I hope a few of these tips can hold a purpose for like-minded freelancers. The field of web design is packed with young, gifted talent. And even meeting new clients can be a struggle with little experience. But when you setup a business around your talents then it’s so much easier churning out tasks and pushing forward as an independent designer.