a minimal approach is committed to presenting the concept of web design simplicity and supporting the idea that less is more.

CSS Tinderbox Gets A Facelift

August 6th, 2007
admin

After a long time of outright neglect, I decided that the CSS Tinderbox could use some attention so I updated the look a bit and have started working on some more templates to be included along with the ones already there.

Of course the original templates could stand some updating of their own to reduce them even further, but I’ll be doing that later on.

CNNs Quiet Structure Revealed

July 10th, 2007
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Andy Rutledge presents a really good take on the recent redesign of CNN.com and explains the impact of “quiet structure”. The rest of his blog is just as good. Check it out.

Can All Browsers Just Get Along?

June 25th, 2007
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Once you start kicking around with web design and CSS, you soon learn first-hand the horrible reality that not all web browsers will treat your work the same. What looks perfectly like you planned it in one browser will be a hot mess in another. Do a minor adjustment to take care of it and now the other browser is in revolt. Ugh.

Don’t you just love that see-saw feeling?

The fact that each browser interprets web standards a bit differently is not at all big news. From day one, web designers have had to deal with this kind of see-saw action to take into effect the differences in the browsers. Hacks and work-arounds were (and still are) an accepted fact when it comes to punching out code.

(And no, I’m personally not really thrilled about IE7 and its supposed improvements with web standards. It seems like the real major change was that it negated all the tried and true CSS hacks with leaving the original problems unchanged. OK, I admit it, I’m an IE hater.)

In any case, a big part of learning CSS is not just how to develop the look and feel of your site, but also how to bend, twist, crush or shove it into the gaps left by the differences in the browsers. And after wrangling with the code in order get what you want to look the same across multiple browsers, you can’t help but to realize that simplicity went out the window a long time ago.

But there is something that you can do from the very get-go that can help reduce the amount of time you’ll spend on the dreaded standards see-saw and bring back relative simplicity – the handy dandy CSS reset.

It’s not voodoo or meant to be the ultimate solution, it’s just a handy bit of code that helps to level the playing field between browsers. In a nutshell, it zeros out all the browsers’ defaults for the listed styles at the very beginning so that when you define them later on, say the size and margin of a H1 heading, each browser will handle it the same way from that point and not after you’ve had to jockey with it a dozen times.

Now there are some haters out there and while they may bring up some valid points, I feel that in the long run, the CSS reset really is a valuable bit of kit and it’d be worth it to at least try it out for your self.

Eric Meyer baked up a respectable version of the CSS reset and I would recommend starting there to get acquainted with it but of course you could develop a more custom tailored reset for yourself if you want.

The Right Tool For The Job

June 22nd, 2007
admin

Simplicity in design doesn’t necessarily mean just the layout or visual impact of a website or blog because it can also be applied to the way you actually create web content.

Many people entering the internet fray on their own will soon ask the question “what software should I use to write my code?” It’s an honest question because there’s a bunch of editing programs out there just begging to be used and it can be difficult to narrow down the field.

There are some really great programs that offer a healthy bundle of features that can help reduce the amount of repetition and re-work that invariably comes along with web design. But usually these industry-leading programs come with a rather large price tag, keeping them out of reach for the “shade tree” web designer.
And then there are other editors that really, really suck. I’m sorry, but there’s no need to sugarcoat it because it’s true. Sad, but true.

My personal recommendation for choosing an editor is to stick with the most basic thing you can get like Microsoft Notepad or TextPad. No, they’re not too sexy when it comes to features, but that’s kind of the point.

The more robust WYSIWYG editors have a slew of options and they tend to think a bit too much for you when it comes to what code should go where and often produce markup that’s just not necessary. These editors also come with a learning curve, some steeper than others and much of your time will become devoted to just learning how to use the software and not allowing you to remain focused on the actual code itself.

You want to learn and understand web design, not how a specific program functions. Why add more stuff to weed through while you’re learning? And there’s no reason why you can’t adjust to one of the WYSIWYG editors down the road once you have the basics of web design under your belt.

When you’re starting out with coding and you use a simple text editor, there’s nothing between you and what you’re producing for the web. And because what you’re doing isn’t being filtered through the program, you understand the code much better. It’s about as organic as you can get in an inorganic environment.

Keep it as simple and uncomplicated as possible, because I’ll be honest, sometimes this web design stuff can be as frustrating as hell on its own sometimes. Did someone say nested floats?

But web design can be as equally rewarding too and I feel that those rewards don’t have to come by way of a hard fight but can be gained through plain old simplicity.

In the end, the best program to use is the one that you feel the most comfortable with. And that makes sense. But do yourself a favor and at least try writing code in a simple text editor. You never know.

Better Living Through Simplistic Design

April 12th, 2007
admin

Until I actually sat down and wrapped my head around the whole Web 2.0 thing, even hearing the term annoyed me. I hate trends and buzzwords and Web 2.0 just sounded like yet another little phrase and I made it a habit of ignoring it.

But as curiosity usually goes, it got the better of me and I gave in and started paying attention to the Web 2.0 fracas. Among one of the major points of the Web 2.0 trend, aside from the programming end it things, is the idea of simplicity in designs; clean, to-the-point and without all of the extra hoo-has that we’ve become familiar with over the past ten years or so.

Human beings are inherently drawn towards shiny things. It’s a fact - give someone a gadget with all the lights, bells, buzzers and whistles and you’re sure to have a happy customer. And the internet was, and still is at times, no different. Some websites are just too mashed up and are far more distracting than informative to their visitors and whatever message they are trying to convey are soon lost.

And to add to this predicament in that most people view websites far differently than other media. They scan more than they read. They quickly search for visual or textual snippets and rarely take the time to read each and every word. (More than likely how you’re reading this right now.)

So what this means is that as a web designer or site owner, you don’t have the luxury of time to lead your visitor through an online experience you’ve envisioned as near perfect. Pardon the expression, but when you’re designing a site geared towards driving business and/or information sharing, you have to have the mindset of a “working girl” during Fleet Week – “Hello. What do you want? Here you go. Have a nice day.”

It’s hard to achieve this when you’re site is overly bloated with copy and the latest and greatest eye candy. To get right to the point you need to keep things simple.

Now simplicity doesn’t automatically mean minimalist, but if you keep following the logic of the former, you’ll eventually find the later. Simplicity just means presenting the key elements you’re visitors or customers will be looking for. Don’t bring in elements that only serve to showcase a current design trend or your programming knowledge.

If it serves no actual purpose, loose it.

At the heart of every successful design is an uncomplicated layout and navigation that is intuitive to everyone that visits your site. You have just literally seconds to keep a visitor’s attention from the moment they land on your site and by forcing them too decipher your overall message and navigation will only be annoying at best.

10 Best Minimal Open Source Designs

April 12th, 2007
admin

Just because you can label a design as being minimal, it doesn’t automatically mean that it lacks a strong visual appeal. All of these ten designs from OpenDesigns.org pack a visual punch but are still able to follow the path of minimalist design.

Simply Red

Simple Life

ZoeDesigns01

Lonelyness

Silence and Harmony

Light

Summer Breeze

Bright Pixel

Neonix

Soft & Clean