A while ago I wrote a few words about Usability Heuristics and what is their role in software testing. You might also heard about the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) rule, which seems also to be impotent is such activities like web or mobile design. In this post I would like to focus on one particular issue (or trend), which becomes more and more popular nowadays. On the other hand, it seems to be just the common sense output of your software development – The Minimalism.
Good application – what does it mean?
Each year Android community chooses applications that were outstanding during the year. Competitions might differ in details, but one feature is clear and repeatable among all winners – good design.
When we are talking about design, we might be thinking “wait a minute, isn’t it an art – related stuff like sculptures, paintings or furniture?” Well – yes. But not only. I’d say that web or mobile app design is as important as it’s final working version. At the same time the role of software tester in development process, who is aware of good design importance, is essential as well. If the application works fine and causes no error, but simultaneously it is ugly – no one would use it. Or – in best case scenario – he’ll use it once (and it’s get deleted 🙂 ). Keep in mind that 80% of mobile applications are being deleted after the firs use. Why oh why? Most of all because they don’t work as expected, but sometimes – because they’re ugly 😀
A stunning example of beautiful, thought through application is Hopper – the one and only last year winner of best apps ranks. I’ll recommend you to download it from Google Play or App Store and just play around. Using this app is so pleasant and surprising like playing with a piece of art.
When I think about examples of good mobile design – I recall Hopper all the time. Pure love.
Aesthetic and minimalism design
Minimalism is achieved by reducing a design to only the most essential elements.
This heuristic states that aesthetic (which is rather a subjective feeling) and minimalism design (which can be measured somehow) are important.
For example: dialogues should not contain information which is irrelevant or rarely needed. Every extra unit of information in a dialogue competes with the relevant units of information and diminishes their relative visibility. This heuristic is extremely important to be followed in mobile app design.
Mobile applications are not supposed to be over packed with tabs, buttons or unnecessary content. App designers should keep layout as tidy and simple as possible. That is also a great challenge for the tester in the very last phase of each development – to make sure that all elements that have originally been designed are delivered within the working application. Always remember about the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) rule. It’s equally important on each stage of development process.
Testing usability is somehow about taking beauty into consideration.
Essentially, minimalism is about breaking things down to the barest elements necessary for a design to function. In addition, taking things away until nothing else can be removed without interfering with the purpose of the design it’s also a minimalists’ routine. Remember, though, that certain design and graphical elements will directly affect the readability or usability of your website. Note, that it might be highly important in accessibility testing.
Minimalism could be applied to various branches of art or architecture, including web design as well. Testing minimalist websites or mobile applications might seem challenging, but possible for anyone.
Before you test anything in the area of usability – make sure that you are familiar with good web (mobile) design examples. It is good to know what’s on at the moment, keeping in mind basic rules as well. Take advantage of big players like: Twitter, WhatsApp, or less known such as: TheMinimalists, NorthKingdom, Sarah Hultin.
Don’t think it’s easier, because it’s simpler
When it comes to minimalism, don’t think it’s easier just because it’s simpler. Because there are fewer elements, you must provide the same level of usability (perhaps even better) with less interface. To balance aesthetics with functionality, minimalist web design is defined by use of space, amazing visuals, vivid photography, striking typography, and an overall focus on the content itself – and nothing more.