UI/UX Tip 16: White Space is an Essential Design Asset

27 Apr. 22

If you look through a telescope at night sky, you will see the planets and stars as well as the empty space between them.

Space appears dark and complete infinity, but without it being the frame, can you make sense the more visually appealing planets or stars?

White space, or negative area in design, is more than an absence of something. White space is an active composition element that directs the reader’s attention to the most important elements of a page. White space is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “the areas of the page without print or pictures”. It can be strategically used to promote focus, readability and attention.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed when a webpage is full of text and visuals. It would be difficult to see the stars and planets in the night sky if there was no visual differentiation. We discussed How people scan websites vs. actually reading them. In that post, we highlighted the fact that strong headlines, objective writing and scannable interfaces can increase content capture by 124%. The formula becomes even more powerful when these elements are balanced with strategic white space.

Jan Tschichold, a famous typographer, once stated that white space should be considered an active element and not a background. This quote highlights a key point about white space. It is not just an absence or lack of content. Professional photography and film capture all that is in the frame. Professional web design captures only what is on the page. White space, if understood as an “active component”, can be used strategically to highlight certain sections of a web site layout and encourage users to interact with it in a planned way.


#1 Benefit: Making content easier to read and scan


Based on the argument in the blogpost above, we also know that space between content blocks allows the brain to scan. You can’t make people scan if they don’t have enough space to do so. This will result in a lower bounce rate and less conversions.

The authors of The Smashing Book #2 mention another benefit of using white space: it increases the legibility and readability of copy. They say:

“Empty space allows the body copy to breathe and the reader absorbs the information being communicated. . . ] A balanced and judicious use of white space can solve many usability issues and legibility problems. A few extra pixels of padding, margin, padding, measure, or leading can make a big difference in the overall legibility and readability of content.” (76-77).

It is important to present the information in the most effective layout and format. This can be achieved by using white space. The designer must reduce the amount of content that is essential to the page and then think about how to organize the written text in relation to other content.


#2: Enhancing understanding of your message


The Smashing Book #2 further explores the concept of balancing page content and white space. The Smashing Book #2 authors argue that text can be more difficult to read and scan if it is not balanced with the empty space around it. This leaves readers confused and frustrated [ ]. . . ] White space is a visual cue and anchor that the user uses to create an intuitive and pleasurable reading experience.” (78).

Frustration and uncertainty should be avoided by a UI/UX Designer.

We at Fresh are all about user-friendly. According to Fresh’s opinion, white space is not waste space. It can be used as an interactive and highly effective tool for creating a positive user experience.

Your message is important and valuable. It is essential that users can easily understand your message in order to appreciate its importance and necessity. White space, as an active design element, is the ideal tool to communicate your message in a user friendly manner.


Benefit #3: Directing User Experience


It is easy to get caught up in the trap of trying to fill all white space. But there are art and skill in thinking about where and how to use it. The danger lies in believing that white space is unintentional or sloppy. This can lead to a waste of limited resources. While space is a scarce commodity, it is true that white space can be used to create a positive and meaningful experience for users. It is important to preserve it and make sure that it is used in a thoughtful way.

Jason Santa Maria discusses white space and how it can be used to direct user experience. He states that white space can be used to help create balance and flow on a page, which helps communicate the design intent by inviting readers to stay longer. It can help to highlight key elements and support the overall hierarchy. This will guide the viewer through the page according to the designer’s intention. Because even empty space can have a purpose and support the visual integrity of a page, it is just as important as imagery. . . ] A reading record with little or no negative space is an equivalent to a skipping record. Most people will not sit down until the end.

It’s inherently difficult to direct users’ attention to the things we want. It’s also difficult, considering our current attention spans, for users to stay on the site for the entire experience. Active thought and engagement are required to pay attention. However, presenting information in a hierarchical manner allows users to deduce which details or sections are the most important. Designers risk losing their target users if they don’t do this.


White Space is like fresh, clean air


A design also needs air to breath, just as humans do. The sense of breathingability creates a copacetic balance in your brain that keeps it from becoming overwhelmed. White space allows visual and cognitive useability. In this case, it refers to the ability of the eyes and sequentially the brain to focus effortlessly on the most important content.

Because there is so much open space, we are able to see, understand, and experience the night skies. White space is an active element. Without it, none the benefits mentioned above would be possible. White space can be used to present your content in a way that is interesting and strategically beneficial.

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