White space is one of the most important tools in a web designer’s toolbox, yet it remains underappreciated and underutilized. Also referred to as “negative space,” white space is the portion of a web page that is left unmarked, be it the margins, gutters, or the space between other design elements. While some may consider it wasted space or a necessary inefficiency in the design process, those with an knack for design know better.
Here are 4 things that all good web designers know about white space.
- White space is not just “blank” space
Referring to white space as merely “blank” space undervalues the role that it plays in the design process. White space is, in fact, a crucial design element, and should be treated as such. Without white space, other elements would not be able to exist; positive space (non-white space) must be balanced out by negative space in order to function.
White space is not just “blank” space. White space breathes life into web design.
- White space improves readability
White space is one of the most important enablers of readability. Typically, the relationship between readability and white space is a positive one: The more white space used (to a certain extent), the greater a web page’s readability score.
One area of design where white space is often underutilized is in résumés design. A common complaint among recruiters is that, too often, job seekers attempt to cram as much info as possible on a single résumé page. As a result, readability is greatly reduced, and recruiters are more likely to pass on that applicant.
- White space is used to prioritize
White space helps to prioritize messaging by drawing the viewer’s eye to the most important elements on a page. Typically, the more white space surrounding an element, the more important it is and the more likely the viewer is to consume that element first. White space is also used to create a subtle but intentional path for the viewer to follow throughout a web page. They may not realize it, but they are being guided through a predetermined route of content consumption when white space is used correctly.
- White space conveys brand positioning
Subconsciously, our brains correlate white space with luxury. With design space often coming at a premium, a brand that doesn’t overload its design space with graphics, text, or other elements is viewed as being more upscale and elegant – “That brand can afford not to pack in as much content as possible,” is what our brains tell us.
Above, we see a great example of the use of white space and its association with luxury. The screengrab is taken from Maserati’s home page. Here, the luxury car manufacturer uses white space to successfully convey a sense of quality, elegance, and sophistication.