There are many different elements that make up a great web design, but we suspect that one of the most overlooked and under-utilised is whitespace. Pretty much every web design has whitespace, but the problem is that there usually isn’t enough.
Many less experienced web designers and their clients see whitespace as empty space. In a retail environment you would look to fill every space possible to maximize the sales potential, but in a web design using every last pixel of screen space can be, and often is, the downfall of the site.
What is Whitespace?
Whitespace, contrary to what the name actually suggests, doesn’t have to be white. The name comes from early graphic design where printing was usually done on white paper. Whitespace is quite simply the space between and around the various design elements or page layout. It can include the space around images, margins and gutters, column spacing and type spacing. It can also be referred to as negative space.
Whilst whitespace is made of nothing, it shouldn’t be treated as such. There are many benefits to giving your web design a generous dose of whitespace which include a design taking on a much more elegant feel, creating ease of use and navigation, and even helping to draw your visitors attention to important areas of your web page such as sales info and buy now buttons.
A touch of class
A computer screen has a set of dimensions, just as a print page does, and those dimensions represent somewhat limited space to get your message across through the use of text and graphics.
By using whitespace generously you can speak volumes about your brand. Whitespace shouts to your visitors that your content is clean, concise and to the point. It tells your visitors that the content is more important than the actual screen space on which it sits, and it shows that you can afford to sacrifice the screen space to better present your message.
If you do some Google Searching you will find that many luxury brands use the whitespace concept to put across an image of elegance and sophistication. Furniture companies, high-end fashion companies and hoteliers all do this very well.
One of the most relevant examples we can provide is the current website used by Apple, most famous for the iPod and iMac. They use the whitespace concept brilliantly which portrays a very high end and sophisticated company… suiting their existing brand perception perfectly.
Use creative flare
As with so many other aspects of graphically based design, be it print or web, there is no set guideline or rule for calculating the correct amount of whitespace. Every designer has their own thoughts, likes and dislikes, and the amount will have to vary depending on the project, but by studying the brand identity, the target market, and the messages the design needs to portray then whitespace can be a key weapon in the fight for website success.
If you are not sure what is best then why not make the design process a source of interaction for a brands customers? Build a few example homepages and let the customers do the deciding!
Regardless of how you get to the right place with your whitespace one thing is clear, over time you will learn to understand what works well and what doesn’t, and only the experience of trying, testing and measuring will allow you to create a truly stunning website design.