White space is often neglected as an element of a webpage’s layout. It is as underrated as the silence between musical notes.
Still, it’s everything but unimportant. In fact, it is precisely the carefully thought out coordination between space and content that keeps a person on your page.
Imagine a painting without a canvas. It’s difficult, right?
White space is just like a canvas – it’s the background that holds the elements together in a design. It is what enables the remaining elements to stand out.
Let’s dive deeper into the issue and see why white space is so important.
What is white space?
White space is the unused but invaluable area that fills the void between individual design components, including the space between typography glyphs (i.e. characters).
Bear in mind; white space does not mean empty space with a white background. Instead, it is the space between the layouts, lines of paragraphs, different user interface (UI) elements, and other essential features that denote meaning.
Although referred to as “white”, it can be of any colour, texture, pattern, or even an image. So, if you want a well-structured layout, you need to use it wisely.
It’s worth noting that white space is often the cause of arguments between designers and clients. Such disputes usually happen when clients think of this area as wasted space.
Below you will learn why that is certainly not the case.
Benefits of white space
Whereas many believe aesthetics is the main reason for having white space, others see tangible impacts of its effectiveness.
In short, white space is a huge factor when it comes to boosting both UI (User Interface) and UX (User Experience) of the page.
When white space is used correctly, it allows the reader to scan the content quickly. In turn, this improves legibility.
Therefore, if you properly use white space between lines of paragraphs, as well as for left and right margins, you can significantly enhance comprehension.
The small space between lines, paragraphs, and menu items are referred to as micro white space.
On the other hand, the vast space between major layout elements, and the space surrounding the design layout, is the macro white space.
Being able to focus the reader’s attention to a specific part of the page is critical, don’t you agree?
Macro white spaces, the vast spaces between layouts and layout elements, are there to help guide a reader through the page. They help prioritise the focus area for the reader.
For instance, an excellent example of white space usage is on Apple’s website.
When you open it, you can see where the company wants to draw your attention. And, white space is the reason they are so successful at it.
It’s safe to say that the vast majority of visitors are often in a hurry when browsing the web.
Fortunately, with practical white space usage, you can quickly convey the message to the user. By highlighting the Call to Actions (CTAs), you increase the likelihood of interaction resulting in longer time spent on the website.
Even slight padding around objects can draw more attention to a specific area of a website. Combined with increased comprehension, this can be a major factor affecting user’s behaviour.
Guidance through logical grouping
Gestalt psychologists established the Law of Proximity, which our mind uses to organise visual information. The law states that objects near each other appear similar.
By using white space correctly, you can help visitors make logical sense of the information presented to them. This isn’t a revolutionary thing but a highly-practised principle in design.
Margins and gutters between grids should be used wisely to handle logical grouping of layout elements. Divide the page into ‘content boxes’ and check whether the logical groups you created make sense. Evaluate and modify if needed.
What to consider when using white space?
There are significant advantages of a meticulously planned web page design. However, despite best intentions, white space can end up being neglected out of a design.
To prevent this, it is important to understand why it ends up being overlooked and how the issue can be fixed.
Designer against developer scenario
It happens way too often that a designer creates a wonderful layout that never sees the light of day. Once the developers do their job and hand the product back to the designer, it ends up looking completely different than the original layout.
This kind of misunderstanding should be avoided and the only way to do so is to create collaboration between the two parties.
For this reason, both the designer and developer must collaborate and discuss layout concepts before the development process starts. They should cover all the elements, including highlight and underline padding, margins, line-heights, and so on.
The fold issue
Sometimes people insist on pushing as much content as possible high on the page, completely ignoring white space.
When this happens, white space gets pushed out of a design, which is never good.
However, no one knows the point where users have to start scrolling. It is impossible to know where the fold lies on a viewer’s screen, so it is practically not worth worrying about.
Explaining the design
It is of the utmost importance to consult a client and explain the design. Or, if you are a client, sit back and do your best to fully understand your designer.
Try to follow the other party, speak in simple terms, and be ready to compromise. The decisions should be backed up with valid arguments.
Remember, knowing the facts is as important as knowing how to explain them.