Back to Basics: The Power of an Essentialist Design Approach

When I was in elementary school, I discovered the wonderful world of clip art and word art in Microsoft Word. My school documents soon became saturated with unnecessary images and text effects. But to me, it felt like I was adding value and dynamism to my work. I was proud of my eclectic creations and thought others would enjoy it as much as I did. 

At my core, I still enjoy designing flashy things, but my approach has changed significantly. Specifically with web design, there are so many amazing things you can do on a website, but it doesn’t mean that every website needs robust animation or elaborate scroll effects. 

I approach web design a lot like I approach life – with an essentialist mindset. 

Essentialism is the intentional act of making decisions that improve the quality of life. It is very similar to minimalism in that the pursuit of less typically results in a more fulfilling life. But rather than pursuing less things, essentialists pursue more quality.

They ask questions. They take time to think before making decisions. They know that when they do make a decision, it will directly impact their quality of life.

When approaching web design, I believe that every element should have a purpose and provide value to the user; if not, get rid of it. For every website, I ask myself two questions:

  1. Who is this site for?
  2. What will provide value to the user?

Those two questions direct every decision I make when putting together designs from sketch to launch. 

An essentialist design approach also comes with additional benefits, such as:

  • Faster development. The simpler the website, the faster we can build it. When everything on a website has a purpose, there is no room for excess elements that need to be developed. 
  • Improved onsite times. Less engagement with distractions and more engagement with your meaningful content— resulting in more time spent exploring your website.
  • Less bloat = faster website. The less code you have on your website, the faster your website will load. This not only helps with user experience, but search engines will keep your website near the top of search results. 
  • Simpler management. At Embark, we empower our clients to take the reins after launch. We strive to build websites that our clients will enjoy managing themselves. So by sticking to the basics, only the essential elements on the website will need to be managed.

As my design style evolves, the basics remain the same.

In a world where vanity and excess are the norm, I have to remind myself that great design balances aesthetics and function. If something is nice to look at but serves no purpose (and vice versa), then as designers, we’ve missed the mark. 

Let’s get back to basics. 

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