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Bento Box Design: A Complete Guide On Improving Your Web Aesthetics

Brian Bojan Dordevic
About The Author

Brian Decoded

President at Alpha Efficiency

Join me at the forefront of web design and digital marketing innovation. I am obsessed with web design, business philosophy and marketing performance.
I write Conversion Insider newsletter.

Have you heard about the bento box design trend and are wondering if it’s worth diving into? It’s a common dilemma in our industry – grasping a trend while it’s hot but not knowing the first step to take.

You’re striving to create something innovative, something that resonates with modern internet users, but you’re stuck in a creative rut.

I’ve recently decided to experiment with bento box design with my web design Chicago agency, and the results have been promising so far. We saw a tangible increase in user engagement on our clients’ websites.

However, my journey to learning the crucial steps for bento box design was filled with trial and error. Those were some easy-to-fix mistakes which I’ll show you how to avoid.

But before I even start this guide, there’s one thing to make clear – bento box design is not ideal for every type of project.

In this article, you’ll discover whether learning bento box design is worth it, depending on the type of projects you work on. You’ll also learn whether this trend is here to stay and how it might reshape the web design industry. Finally, I’ll give you practical tips for creating aesthetically pleasing bento box website designs that reflect your unique brand identity.

Table of Contents:
Bento box design

What Is a Bento Box In UI Design?

Bento box UI might sound complicated, but it’s actually a very easy-to-learn way of structuring your user interfaces to achieve a modern look and improve usability.

This concept revolves around creating a layout where you can neatly segment content into various ‘cells’ or ‘boxes.’ Each of these cells serves you as a container for different elements of your website – text, images, videos, or interactive features.

When I first started experimenting with bento box web design, it surprised me how it allows you to easily present information in a clean, organized fashion. It can make your designs exceptionally user-friendly.

Most importantly, bento UI works well across different devices and screen sizes, maintaining its structural integrity whether viewed on a desktop, tablet, or smartphone. Actually, many design experts found bento UI to look best on smaller screens, so you can consider using it for mobile apps too.

From Lunch Boxes To Web Design Revolution – How Did Bento UI Trend Start?

Bento boxes play an important role in Japanese culture. About a thousand years ago, farmers and merchants conceptualized the bento box as a practical solution for transporting their meals. These compact, compartmentalized containers allowed for a variety of foods to be carried conveniently and elegantly.

As centuries passed, bento boxes evolved, transcending cultural boundaries. People worldwide started using them.

But how did lunch boxes find their way into the web design industry and manage to revolutionize it?

Designers realized that they could envision a website as a collection of content blocks, neatly arranged in small grids like 4×4 or 3×3. This method was aesthetically distinctive, and it actually improved website usability.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to tell who exactly started the bento box web design trend:

Some industry experts suggest that it was an Apple promotional video that first showcased this concept. Others argue that Microsoft played a pivotal role in popularizing this trend with Windows Phone 7 and its Metro design language.

The true initiator may be up for debate, but the impact of the bento box design on the web design industry is undeniable.

Bento UI has had a significant influence, opening new avenues for web designers to experiment with styles and techniques.

This trend, inspired by a millennium-old Japanese tradition, proves that inspiration can emerge from the most unexpected places.

However, many designers now ask the same million-dollar question… I’ll answer it in the next section…

Bento Box UI design trend

Is Bento Box Design Just A Short-Term Trend Or The Future Of Web Design?

Web design trends tend to change quickly. However, there are those exceptional trends that not only survive the test of time but go on to reshape the industry.

But is the bento box trend the next big thing in UX design?

There’s a debate within the design community. Some experts argue that the popularity of bento design has peaked, suggesting it’s heading towards the same transient fate as many other trends. I respectfully disagree with this viewpoint. Recall the initial skepticism surrounding responsive web design; many considered it a fleeting trend, yet today it’s an indispensable aspect of web development.

One of the strongest arguments in favor of the longevity of bento box design lies in its current state: it still looks undeniably modern. The clean, organized structure it offers is not just about a fleeting aesthetic appeal; it’s about functionality and user experience, elements that are timeless in the realm of web design.

Further reinforcing the potential durability of bento box design is its adoption by tech giant Apple. Apple is currently utilizing bento box design across its various platforms, including macOS, iOS, and visionOS. This is particularly noteworthy because Apple is known for its commitment to its UI design styles over extended periods. The company’s endorsement and continued use of bento box design suggest that it’s more than a mere short-lived trend. It’s a style that resonates with contemporary design sensibilities and user preferences.

While the future of web design is always open to new influences and innovations, bento box design seems poised not just as a temporary fad but as a significant, lasting approach in the field of UX and web design.

Key Benefits: Why Should You Consider Learning Bento UI Design?

Bento box style design has become a go-to choice for many companies, as there are various benefits of website redesign when you implement such style. Here is how learning how to create bento UI can be beneficial for you as a web designer:

Ease in Creating Responsive Layouts:

Bento box UI design simplifies the process of crafting responsive layouts for various devices. The inherent structure of bento box layouts, with their compartmentalized ‘cells’, adapts fluidly across different screen sizes.

This makes it an ideal choice for designers aiming to maintain design integrity and user experience across desktops, tablets, and smartphones. It will also make web design project management smoother due to fewer obstacles that can arise when creating mobile-friendly designs.

Organized and Visually Appealing Content Hierarchy:

Adopting bento box designs means you can organize content in a way that is both functional and visually interesting.

This design pattern allows for a clear, logical hierarchy, guiding users through your content seamlessly. Each element within the bento layout has its dedicated space, reducing clutter and enhancing the overall aesthetic appeal.

Offer Modern and Fresh Aesthetics To Clients:

In the fast-paced evolution of web aesthetics, bento box UI design remains a standout for its contemporary look. The clean lines and structured organization inherent in box designs resonate with modern design principles, offering a fresh and current feel essential for keeping your online presence relevant.

If you want to become a freelance web designer, keeping up with trends is crucial – and learning bento box style design will allow you to offer something fresh to potential clients.

Bento UI Can Improve Usability Of Your Websites:

With major players like Apple and Microsoft adopting bento UI in their designs, this style has gained considerable recognition and familiarity among users worldwide.

Many users are already accustomed to navigating bento-style interfaces due to this wide adoption, leading to improved usability and user experience. I’ve conducted multiple experiments using UX research tools, and they all confirmed that users find bento box style websites intuitive and easy to interact with.

How To Get Started With Bento Box Web Design? – 6 Essential Steps

So far, I introduced you to bento box design and tried to motivate you to implement it in your work.

But now the actual work begins – creating your first bento box web design.

In this section, you’ll learn the basic principles you need to apply. However, to create bento UI in practice, you’ll need to learn how to use Figma for web design (or any other tool you like).

Once you’re ready, let’s explore six steps to implementing bento box style in your designs:

Grid system

1. Create Cells Using A Grid System

Creating a bento box design starts with understanding and implementing a grid system.

Bento UI design relies on its structured, grid-based approach, where content is organized into distinct ‘cells’ that work together to create aesthetically pleasing user interfaces and a strong content hierarchy.

Each cell within the grid should be a square. This uniformity is what gives the bento design its distinctive, organized appearance.

2. Create a Visual Hierarchy By Sizing Squares Differently

Not every square has to be of the same size. I recommend playing with different block sizes. While the overall layout remains coherent and unified, thanks to the grid system, the variation in sizes breaks the monotony, making the experience more dynamic for the user.

What should be your approach when deciding on a square size?

I usually recommend using the size of each square to signal its importance.

  • Larger squares naturally draw more attention and are ideal for your main elements, like a headline, a key image, or a call-to-action button.
  • Smaller squares, on the other hand, are perfect for less critical but still necessary information, such as secondary text or supplementary images.

A mix of large, medium, and small squares prevents monotony and keeps the user engaged. It’s like a visual rhythm that makes the journey through your website more enjoyable and engaging. So don’t hesitate to experiment and get creative during this phase.

Filling up cells

3. Selectively Fill Cells With Your Content To Achieve The Desired Aesthetics

Once you’ve established your grid configuration in the bento box style and sized squares differently, the next pivotal step is to fill these cells with content.

This phase is where your creativity can truly shine, as it’s not just about what you fill these cells with but also about which cells you choose to fill and which you leave empty.

By selectively filling cells, you can create various shapes and patterns within your design, contributing to the overall visual narrative of your website.

Whether you’re aiming for a minimalist look with lots of negative space or a more dynamic, content-rich layout, the bento box design gives you the flexibility to realize your vision.

4. Round Corners Of Your Cells – This Is The Key Aspect Of Bento Box Design

A signature element that sets bento box design apart is the use of rounded corners on the cells. This subtle yet impactful detail is what gives the bento box its distinctive character and aesthetic appeal.

Rounded cells bring a sense of modernity and elegance, making the design more approachable and less stark. This softer approach to design elements can make your website feel more inviting and user-centric.

But there’s a practical reason why rounding your cells is a must.

It helps you clearly differentiate one cell from another.  In a grid layout where multiple cells are aligned next to each other, sharp corners can make the interface feel rigid and monotonous. The softening effect of rounded corners, on the other hand, adds a layer of sophistication and helps each cell stand out.

5. Group Related Content To Improve the Usability Of Your Bento UI

A crucial aspect of enhancing the usability of your Bento UI design is the strategic grouping of related content. This approach revolves around arranging cells in such a way that similar or related pieces of information are positioned in close proximity to each other. This method can boost the user experience by making navigation more intuitive and information retrieval more effortless.

By grouping related content together, you create a logical flow that users can easily follow. This could mean placing all contact information in one cluster, grouping product features in another, and so on.

When visitors encounter a website where related content is grouped together, they can process and understand the information faster. This is because their cognitive load is reduced; they don’t have to constantly search for related information across different parts of the user interface.

Additionally, grouping related content makes the user interface more engaging. People are more likely to explore and interact with the content when it’s organized logically.

Bento box design branding

6. Infuse Your Branding Into Bento Box UI: Experiment With Different Colors, Fonts, And Images

Now that you have structured your Bento UI with careful consideration for layout, size, and content grouping, it’s time to add the finishing touch: your brand identity. This step in the design process is pivotal as it’s where your bento box content truly comes to life and begins to resonate with your audience.

Web design branding is crucial, as it helps you attract your ideal customers. Your brand’s visual elements – colors, fonts, and images – are not just decorative additions; they are powerful tools that communicate your brand’s values, personality, and unique selling propositions.

If you already have established branding guidelines, ensure that these elements are prominently and consistently integrated throughout your Bento UI.

However, if you are still in the process of developing your brand identity or if your brand guidelines are flexible, this is an excellent opportunity to experiment. Try out different color schemes, font styles, and imagery to see what best conveys the message and mood of your brand. Pay attention to how these elements interact with each other within the bento box layout.

While infusing your brand identity into your design, remember to balance aesthetics with functionality. The colors, fonts, and images you choose should not only reflect your brand but also contribute to the readability and navigability of your site. For instance, ensure that your text is legible against your chosen color palette and that your images are aligned with the content they accompany.

Bento UI Is Not Always The Best Option – Here’s When To Use It And When To Avoid It

While Bento UI design offers various benefits, it’s important to recognize that it may not be the ideal solution for every project. Understanding when to use it and when to opt for a different approach is crucial in ensuring that your website not only looks good but also functions effectively for your intended purpose.

  • The ideal scenario for using bento box style design: Bento UI design shines in its ability to organize and present content in a clean, structured manner. This makes it particularly effective for websites with simple hierarchies and straightforward content structures. For instance, portfolio websites, blogs, and e-commerce sites can greatly benefit from this design approach. The clear, compartmentalized layout of Bento UI helps users navigate these types of sites effortlessly, finding the information or products they need without confusion.
  • Potential limitations: Bento UI may not be the best fit for websites that require complex hierarchies or an extensive amount of content. Also, if your website needs to handle a large amount of content with multiple layers of depth or if it requires a highly customizable interface for diverse user interactions, you might want to consider alternative design layouts.

It’s Time To Transform Your Web Aesthetics With Bento Box Design

Bento Box Design is more than just a trend; it’s a testament to how structure and creativity can coexist harmoniously. Whether you’re looking to modernize an existing site or create a new one from scratch, the principles of Bento Box design offer a structured, yet creative way to present your content in a visually appealing and user-friendly manner.

The journey through the various facets of Bento Box design—from the grid system and selective filling of cells to creating a visual hierarchy and infusing your brand identity—demonstrates the versatility and effectiveness of this design approach. It’s a style that marries functionality with modern aesthetics, capable of elevating your online presence and engaging your audience in new and exciting ways.

However, understanding the concept and effectively implementing it can be two different challenges. This is where strategic guidance and professional expertise come into play. Whether you’re still weighing the viability of Bento Box design for your project or you’re ready to dive in but need some expert advice, I’m here to help.

At Alpha Efficiency, my agency, we specialize in turning website visions into tangible realities. every website has its unique needs and challenges, and our approach is always tailored to meet those specific demands.

Schedule a call with me today, and let’s discuss how we can make your website project a success.

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