What is whitespace?
Contrary to its name, whitespace isn’t necessarily white. The term simply refers to the ‘negative’ or empty space between elements of a design or page layout – consider it the opposite of content. I know what you’re thinking, this sounds like a pointless design feature; but empty space can actually be the difference between a good UX and an outstanding one.
Why does it matter?
Whitespace gives your content room to breathe. Today’s readers don’t have much time and, more often than not, your web pages will simply be scanned and skimmed. This means that busy and overpopulated layouts can be a quick turn off.
The inclusion of whitespace can bring structure and meaning to a website, guiding the user through their experience without drawing attention to itself. But, let’s delve deeper and take a look at 5 key ways that whitespace can directly impact your UX.
Whitespace means usability
First things first, whitespace is a great design principle to help make your design more user-friendly. And it’s no secret that good usability is crucial for a successful website. So, make sure you consider the goals of your users: Who are they? Why are they visiting? And what action do they need to complete?
These are questions that you must answer before you even get started on your design. Then, once you have a clear design objective, you can use whitespace as an effective tool to guide visitors through your site and help them reach their goal as efficiently as possible.
Take a look at the MailChimp login page here. The generous use of whitespace makes it extremely clear to users what actions they need to take, whether they’re first-time visitors or returning ones. The design is simple and clean-cut, and the use of imagery even offers an element of delight.
Whitespace makes your content readable
A key aspect of good usability is the readability of your content. A lot of factors can contribute to readability, including font size and color, or the use of headings. Whitespace is another key point to consider, as it can define how you arrange and align different text elements – from entire paragraphs down to a single letter. Let your content breathe; be mindful about spaces between lines and letters and you’ll make things easier for your reader to digest.
Airows not only uses whitespace to separate each feature, but the negative space in the images they choose means text can be laid on top without overpopulating the page. The amount of text is also minimal and using a high-contrast color like white ensures each title clearly stands out.
Whitespace gives your users a break
The web – like most other aspects of life – continues to become more and more advanced. Users are dealing with a constant overload of information and the choices that come with that and sometimes this can get overwhelming.
In case you haven’t noticed, the buzzword here is simplicity. There are countless websites out there and probably some of them are similar to yours. Why not stand out by spoiling your users with a break? Keep your design simple. Whitespace is the perfect design element to focus on what’s most important. Don’t confuse your visitors, but present them with what matters.
As Beatbox Academy shows, simplicity doesn’t have to be boring. By drawing attention to a few key elements, they’ve created a calming experience that delights, by inviting the user to interact with their page. Once the user is done playing and decides they want to explore further, the generous use of whitespace makes the rest of the page incredibly easy to navigate.
Whitespace looks good
A simple design with lots of whitespace does not only add to the usability of your site, but also to its aesthetic appeal. Minimalism is considered a modern style and sites that work with a lot of whitespace often look professional and trustworthy. Especially in e-commerce, giving products some extra space makes them look more exquisite. Not only do they get more screen real-estate, they also draw more attention due to the lack of tangent elements.
Whitespace can put a single element into the focus of your users, making it more special than the rest of your content. As with the Missguided homepage, it can allow you to present a key item from a collection in a stylistic fashion, encouraging the user to click through and explore further products.
Whitespace makes your design emotional
Last but not least, whitespace can add an emotional element to your design. Again, it doesn’t have to be white, but can be any color, shape, or pattern you want. Just like background images, background colors can have a big emotional effect on us.
You can also use effects, such as parallax scrolling to make your whitespace interactive and more fun, or simply use gradients and patterns to add some excitement. The tone you set with your whitespace – and that can be through the amount or the design of it – affects how people will receive your content.
Check out the brilliantly designed Dog Studio website for a great example of both whitespace and effects. The visuals really capture your attention and the sleek design instantly gives the agency a professional feel while evoking a curiosity to find out more.
Instead of seeing whitespace as the leftovers of your design or web page, you should see it as an autonomous design element. Carefully decide where it appears necessary, and watch visitors effortlessly navigate their way through your UX, guided by simplicity and delight.