04 Jul White space in web design: what it is & why you should use it
It’s a designer’s job to create easy to use, user-friendly, compelling websites but white space is often one of the most overlooked and underutilised elements in web design. Too often, white space is seen as empty space and, therefore, a waste of screen real estate. However, the truth is that white space is one of the most valuable parts of a well-designed, easy to read and beautiful website.
So why is white space so important and how do we make sure it is preserved?
The times we live in are full of constant distraction. Information surround us and vies for our attention at all times. As designers, we should create websites that are easy to scan, read and understand. This helps your readers to grab the information that they are after with ease and speed.
Busy or crowded websites are difficult to read. Complexity often makes users switch off and lose interest. If we overwhelm them with lots of different information, all fighting for their attention, they often abandon the site before they’ve made a purchase, read a blog article or taken an action.
White space will give your site visual clarity simply by avoiding unnecessary clutter and using the space between elements to your advantage.
What is white space?
White space, also often called negative space, is the space between the elements of your website (this also applies to any other kind of design layout). It doesn’t have to be literally white or blank, though. It is essentially a dimension of space that is empty of content for the users to scrutinise or consider so that they can concentrate on the main focal elements.
Essentially it helps to reduce the quantity of information clutter on the page, thus providing visual breathing room for the eye.
More specifically, the space between major elements in a composition is macro white space whereas micro white space is—yep, you’ve guessed it—the space between smaller elements e.g. margins and gutters, between columns or lines of text, or even between words and letters.
Why do you need it?
When white space is used in a well-considered way, it can transform a design.
It makes your website easier to scan/improves interaction
A balanced and considered use of white space enables and enhances a user’s ability to skim the website. Users can more easily scan the content so it is faster and easier for them to find what they’re searching for.
Having a good ratio of white space to content will increase your visitor interaction by preventing distractions that slow the visitor down. Based on research conducted by Human Factors International, white space increases comprehension by almost 20%.
It improves the legibility/readability of your content
Keeping the proper distance between characters makes the content easier to read. It helps users to read the web content faster, and easier.
White space is one of the most simple methods of guiding the eyes of your audience.
We can use this design tool to create natural hot-spots in our layouts. By drawing focus to these areas, we can place important content within while ensuring we effectively convey our message.
When users are on your site, they should be able to see where they are going and be given a reason to keep reading. Believe it or not, white space between paragraphs and around blocks of text and images actually helps people understand what they are reading. This ultimately adds up to a better user experience overall.
It improves the site’s aesthetics
Implementing more blank space and reducing unnecessary elements can drastically improve your website’s visual appeal.
Ask yourself a question: Would you rather browse a page full of clutter, pop-ups, banners, and unnecessary visual effects? Or would you prefer a simple, easy to scan/read website, that gets straight to the point?
Your site’s first impression matters a lot. A whole lot. Great solid layouts, good colour schemes — all these elements add to the impression a website makes. White space, however, is particularly important because it indicates finesse and ingenuity. White space does not make your website bare and minimal.
It helps to position your brand
An abundance of visual elements can lower your reader’s impression of quality. Using blank space, on the other hand, does the opposite. White space makes the website seem lighter, more soothing and more elegant. The fewer objects competing for attention, the better the overall user experience.
Designers use white space to create a feeling of sophistication and elegance for upscale brands. Coupled with a sensitive use of typography and photography, generous white space is seen all over luxury markets.
It doesn’t have to be white
All the tips we’ve mentioned revolve around guiding the eyes of your readers. That being said, just because we call it white space doesn’t mean it literally has to be white! There’s no rule dictating the colour – or lack thereof – of the space between the prominent pieces of your designs! (But we do suggest in keeping it light as dark backgrounds can worsen overall legibility)