How to wield the power of white space design

Everybody’s talking about white space.

Not every space in a website needs to be filled. Despite the common belief among website owners that empty space is a waste of screen real estate, white space is one of the most valuable elements of website design. Much like the silence between musical notes, white space is an underrated yet powerful tool in keeping users engaged.

What is white space?

Contrary to the name, white space doesn’t just apply to the colour white. In designer speak, it’s referred to as negative space and is defined by the areas of design not taken up by other elements. The web design elements can include typography, hand-drawings, icons, logos, images, etc, whereas the white space could be any colour, texture, pattern, or background feature image. In design theory, white space is promoted to ensure elegance and a strong visual communication experience.

White Space Elements

The skill of using white space lies in offering your web visitors a digestible amount of content, then stripping away unimportant details. At first, it may feel like you’re denying the visitor all the information about your product; however this is necessary in ensuring the user doesn’t feel overwhelmed. You can use the white space to engage a user’s attention, guiding them towards a particular customer journey.

White space design (or negative space) can be broken down into four elements.

  1. Visual White Space – the space surrounding graphics, icons, and images.
  2. Layout White Space – refers to margins, paddings, and gutters on a website.
  3. Text White Space – the space between lines and around letters.
  4. Content White Space – denotes the space separating columns of text.

Advantages of using white space

  • Allows for scannability: contrary to popular belief, white space between paragraphs, text and images helps people better understand what they are reading.
  • Higher interaction: In a time-poor society, distractions on a website slow down a visitor’s experience. According to Human Factors International, white space increases comprehension and overall interaction by 20%.
  • Prioritises user interface elements: White space helps communicate to a user what elements are most important, what’s related, and what requires attention.
  • Highlights call to action buttons: Think you need to make a call-to-action button bigger to get a user’s attention? Simply putting white space around the button can be just as effective.
  • A tidy site builds trust: First impression matter. A solid layout and good colour scheme speaks volumes when you’re trying to build trust with a user.
  • Essential for balanced, harmonious website: The empty spaces are just as important as the space occupied by text and imagery, as it supports the visual integrity of a website layout.

Checklist: How much white space is too much white space?

When it comes to using white space in your web designs, there are no hard or fast rules. Simply put yourself in the shoes of a user (as you would when creating any design) and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are these elements too close together?
  2. Can I scan the content and “get the general idea”?
  3. Can I concentrate on the task at hand/my reason of visiting the website?
  4. Is there anything distracting me on this page?
  5. Would more white space let the design breathe?

Need a harmonious, balanced website design for your business? iFactory is a digital and creative agency, with over 13 years’ experience building meaningful, interactive websites. Our team of Brisbane website designers will work collaboratively with you to build a unique website for your needs. Get in touch with us today for a custom quote.

Read more insights