12 Tools for Minimalist Web Design & Development

Minimalism is not just for art or quirky lifestyle proponents. Web developers and designers want – and need – scripts that will do the job with a minimum of fuss. That means code that is as lean as possible to provide speed on the server and a Goldilocks-style feature list that is not too big and not too small. If you are looking for a way to tackle content management, a shopping cart, a discussion board or image gallery in a lightweight and basic fashion, we’ve got some scripts that fit the bill.



Looking for a content management system that doesn’t use a database? Pico is a flat file CMS, with no database and no admin backend. Creating a page is as simple as adding an .md file to the “content” folder. Pico’s only requirement is PHP 5.2.4+ on your server (Apache also needs mod_rewrite enabled). Changes to the default settings and other customizations are as simple as editing the config.php file.



Forums traditionally have required complex structures and features, but Moot has pared the structure down with a clean and clear user interface that can handle the heavy API initialization request at about 2ms (with a throughput of 1,000 API calls/second/API server). Using dedicated persistence servers and keeping data designed around sharding, Moot uses Redis as the primary disk store. Forums on Moo can be any size in terms of number of forums, users, or comments and there are no traffic limits.



SimpleCart(js) is an easy-to-use, lightweight JavaScript shopping cart that lets you set up an ecommerce store in just a few minutes. It requires no database or programming knowledge – all you need to know is some basic HTML. The cart works with PayPal, Google Checkout, and Amazon payments and supports multiple currencies and tax rates. Its flexible cookie-based cart feature allows buyers to add, remove and adjust the quantity of items ordered. Upcoming add-ons include email checkout, Google Analytics tracking, on-site checkout, live shipping quotes, and the sale of downloadable items.



If you are looking for a script to add a chatroom to your site design, Chatr is a simple PHP/JavaScript construct that produces an AJAX/PHP chatroom. The original has a pretty minimal server load, but as a GitHub project, developers can add features as needed. It’s super simple to use and install — Just upload the files and make a few changes to the install.php file to get started.



Relay is an AJAX directory manager developed by Google Code. Upload/download capability can be accessed via drag-and-drop, with a progress bar and multi-file support. Based on PHP and MYSQL, Relay also shows thumbnails for image and PDF files, as well as allowing multiple users and accounts. The latest version (1.5.3) lets you easily use FTP or other management functionality within the filestore itself.



A CMS that installs in two minutes? To keep it so lightweight, Anchor does require that you have the latest versions of its code languages (PHP 5.3.6+ and MySQL 5.2+), but as a result, its code is only about 150kb in size. Blog posts can be written either in HTML or Markdown and CSS/JavaScript customization is easy via drag-and-drop. Theme modifications are also easily accomplished, but there is no support for IE 6/7/8.



The Bolt CMS is a nice mix of functionality geared to both developers and end users/content writers. Written in PHP, it can use either SQLite, MySQL or PostgreSQL for the database. The framework is Silex and it makes use of Symfony components, but in a very simple and straightforward manner. Bolt is best used if you are developing in HTML5 with markup. Bolt is also a fully responsive design, and its contextual menus help make it easy to use for non-developers . It comes with a built-in debug toolbar shows and uses Twig templates.



Tire is a great lightweight alternative to jQuery, Prototype or Zepto. It’s designed for more recent browsers, and therefore doesn’t support IE 6 or 7 – which helps keep the size of the script as small as possible. Built in a modular fashion, features can be replaced or changed via the source code on GitHub.



Photobox is a JQuery image gallery script that uses CSS3 for transitions and animations. The script and CSS are a maximum of 10k each in size and just need to be placed in your page to function. The result is a simple and elegant image gallery where you can zoom in/out with the mouse, show title text of images, sequence of image, looping, etc.



With social media so pervasive, you not only need to have share buttons on your website, but you often want to include a running count of how many people have shared specific content. SocialCount uses a jQuery plugin to provide a fast way to load and display share buttons that is especially designed for mobile environments. It currently works for Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, and functions with a mouse, touchscreen or keyboard. SocialCount requires jQuery 1.6+.



Building an interface for a mobile version of your site can be a daunting task, but Sidetap simplifies things via a side-navigation setup that is very small, but which can be enhanced depending upon the device. It offers four call animations (up-from-bottom, down-from-top, in-from-left and in-from-right). Sidetap requires jQuery or Zepto (although it has only been tested with jQuery 1.7.2).



Dialog boxes are a commonly used feature on a website, but many of the available scripts are full of many different features that are rarely needed. leanModal is a perfect choice when all you need is a simple form such as a login or signup window. It comes in two forms – basic or basic with a close button – and features flexible width and height measures. There is no support for AJAX, iframe or gallery and it hasn’t been tested in IE6, but it’s simple to use, with variable vertical placement on the page and easy adjustment of the overlay opacity.