The word ‘chrome’ does not just refer to a browser from Google when you are talking about the web. At the same time it is also a term that also refers an element in the UI, and specifically refers to the navigation elements such as menus at the top and sides of the page. ‘Chrome’ essentially means anything that isn’t content (or advertising) that is required in order to frame the content and to allow users to get around the page.
Chrome has also become somewhat a ‘dirty’ word of late when it comes to web design. A push towards efficient and minimalist web design has led to many designers trying to do away with chrome entirely so that the content becomes more immersive and so that all the space is used to maximum effect. This is partly due to the popularity of mobile devices which of course have smaller screens, but is also a result of a general move towards more efficient design.
So then how do you get rid of Chrome and make your site look and feel more like an intuitive and immersive app? Let’s look at some of the strategies you can use and tips you can employ to keep your site as chrome-free as possible.
‘Communicate, Don’t Decorate’
When trying to rid your site of chrome, this above mantra is one that you may want to keep in mind. What the phrase essentially means is that there shouldn’t be anything on your pages that doesn’t have a clear and necessary purpose. You shouldn’t include flourishes or embellishments for the sake of it – they should only be there if they aid in navigation or add to the content.
A great start then is to look at your website and to ask yourself whether or not each element on the page is required. If the answer is no, then remove it and you’ll probably find that your page looks a lot more modern as a result.
Similarly, you should also ask yourself whether each of the elements on your page couldn’t be reduced and still get the same point across. If you have a link to your home page on the nav-bar and your logo links back to the homepage – then do you really need both?
Of course not everything on your site can simply be removed – as that would leave your visitors with no context and with no way to get from one page to the next, or to see everything that your site has to offer.
A solution to this problem then is to create collapsing menus that will expand and contract depending on how you use them. This could be something as simple a floating element on the top left of the page that opens up when you click it to show a number of useful links.
As well as minimising the information on your pages though, you should also be aiming to minimise the necessary number of clicks to get around. An even better solution then would be to have that menu emerge when a user scrolled up on the page. When they did that, they would be likely to be looking for your menu, and thus you could this way intelligently guess that the control would be useful at this point.
Think More Like an App
There are many other strategies you can use like this one, and many of them are common in mobile applications. This is a great place to research minimalistic and touch-friendly design, so it’s worth trying a few out.
One example of app-like design for instance is to have pages of content that you can swipe through. With a left and right button on your browser you could easily come up with something similar and completely do away with the need for visible menus.
There are plenty more examples of smart app and website designs that do away with the need for chrome too. Spend some time looking around the web, and then see what you could afford to lose on your own site. The end result will be faster, more elegant and much more attractive.