white space
Design - Usability - UX Design

Importance of White Space in Web Design

White space has, over time, become one of the most basic and yet very crucial aspects of web design. While white space basically refers to the rather empty area on the design plane, it does not always have to be white as such. In fact, white space is so called because white tends to be one color that blends well with virtually any color scheme.

White space is also interchangeably used with negative space. Whilst there is hardly much of a difference between the two, I have talked at length about negative space in an older article for Syntaxxx, so be sure to check that one out too!

If properly done, white space can be very helpful in adding glory to your web design projects. In this article, I will discuss how white space can benefit the overall web design.

Importance of White Space in Web Design

White Space or Wasted Space?

One of the biggest misconceptions about white space is that it is nothing but wasted space. This notion stems from the fact that most people tend to treat web design too as a matter of real estate property — the more land area you have, the bigger your building ought to be. This is wrong in terms of web design, where good aesthetics and proper user experience can never be achieved by cramming one object after another on the web page.

In fact, white space is actually carefully and judiciously planned space that is used to help your primary content stand out. In other words, white space is not “nothing”; it is something that is meant to complement everything else on the page.

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White Space Promotes Readability and Usability

If you use white space in a smart manner, you will boost the overall readability of your web page. This is especially helpful if the website in question is a blog and/or a magazine site where text is of primary importance. Good typography fails if it is used against a background of shiny textures that hurt the readers’ eyes.

Adding white space makes the text not only easier to read but also pleasing to look at — a virtue that is a very big advantage when it comes to wooing newer visitors and urging them to stay on your website. You can also use white space to break up large chunks of text, thereby making life easier for your readers.

Similarly, simply by adding some space between the headings and paragraphs, as well as adding some breathing space between sidebars and headers or footers, you can enhance the user experience manifolds. A clutterless design is timeless and loved by all, period.

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White Space Enhances Colors

White space can be used to make the colors on your website stand out. In fact, this is one of the biggest and most emphatic use of white space: it can enhance the color on the web page, to the extent that even normal colors tend to grab the user’s attention fairly quickly.

How does white space accomplish that? Every color scheme has its own level of intensity, depth and richness. You cannot boost a color’s intensity, unless you decide to make it darker or lighter (in which case, technically speaking, you have changed the original color and opted for a different one on the spectrum, albeit of the same shade). However, you can make use of white space to complement the given color scheme. By adding regions of white space and then sporadically populating them with shades or splashes of the primary or secondary color of your design, you can easily grab the user’s attention.

This is precisely the reason why you see more and more design or photography portfolio websites turn towards a layout that has more white space and less of imagery — not only does it help the colors stand out, it also puts the focus back on the content.

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White Space Promotes A Content-Centric Approach

White space is an integral part of web design if you are keen on having a minimal look for your website. Furthermore, since white space promotes minimalism, it can help your content stand out from the crowd and put the impetus back on your content.

Put it this way: on any given web page, the wiser idea is to have the background rather quiet, so that your content in the foreground can speak for itself sans any form of hindrance whatsoever. White space helps you accomplish the same by taking the background out of the picture and enhancing the presence of the content by pushing it to the foreground. The first, last and only thing that your visitors notice is your website’s content.

As such, white space can also help you boost your website’s or brand’s identity. Since white space will not meddle or interfere with your overall design, it makes it easy to send out a louder message by means of the content, and allows you to build a brand identity that stands tall all by itself.

It must be noted that for any business or website, the message is always more vital than the screen area. If you use a flashy background just to fill up space, you are conveying the message that you hardly have anything better to say so you have decided to opt for a cluttered screen. A layout with white space, on the other hand, sends out the message that your website and your content can speak for itself, and your brand’s identity and message is way too important to be hindered by outrageous design textures.

Conclusion

As can be seen, white space is not just another fancy term that designers use to convey their laziness. Instead, it is a full-fledged design entity in its own right, that needs to be used more often in order to create an aesthetic and pleasing web experience. Remember, at the end of the day, Less is always More, and the less you design, the more your design improves in its own right.

This is another major reason why you do not find Google using heavy-weight graphics and layouts. Since the major purpose of Google Search is to help users discover the content that they are looking for, the wiser design idea is to simply present them with the search results, and employ white space to hold out everything else in the background. And look how well it has worked? You will have a hard time finding critics of Google’s usage of white space!

Have you used white space in your design projects? What are your thoughts? Share them with us using the comments below!

Image Credits: Seth Waite | Whitespace Comm | Jennifer MacNeill | Mitch Altman

About the author

Writer; coffee-lover; best-selling author; editor of The Globe Monitor; blogs at Code Carbon. Learn more about my works, follow me on Facebook or Google+.

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