There’s no such thing as inner beauty on the internet. Your website has to be pleasing to the eye, or no one’s going to look at it. Leveraging white space in your user experience has many benefits, but we’ve got five to get you started.
The paradox of good design is that what isn’t there is just as important what is. The technical term for “what isn’t there” is white space. White space—or negative space, is the empty space surrounding components of a web page or print layout.
It has surprising power in shaping the way users browse and interact with your website. In the hands of a strategic designer, white space can be used to guide attention, solidify branding, improve comprehension and drive action.
There are four types of white space that impact your UX design:
Visual white space
The space that surrounds the visual elements of your website, such as images, icons, videos, and other graphics.
Layout white space
The white space that cushions your web page, defining the margins, paddings, and gutters.
Text white space
White space integrated into textual elements as spacing between lines, letters, and paragraphs.
Content white space
The space that defines the alignment of different content blocks—paragraphs, columns, lists, etc.
White space may also be known as negative space, but the effects of incorporating it into your UX design are all positive. Working together, the four types of white space can make your website more navigable, readable, scannable, memorable, and actionable. Let’s break it down.
The 5 UX Benefits of White Space
To create excellent UX design, you have to think like your user. What do they want from your site? How do they interact with your product or service? What problems can you help them solve?
White space helps designers answer these questions visually. White space minimizes visual clutter, reducing site content to its most essential elements and organizing navigation in a simplistic fashion.
UX designers use white space to guide visitors through the site, make key points of interest easy to find, and highlight opportunities for user actions such as making a purchase or completing a form.
As we outlined above, text white space dictates how various textual elements appear throughout your site. Text white space and content white space collaborate to organize and display your textual content in a way that is easy for users to consume.
Creating adequate spacing between and within large sections of text makes the content easier to read even when there’s quite a lot of information packed onto the page. Creating clear visual groupings of content also helps readers mentally organize the information, making it easier to digest and understand.
Many internet users no longer read content from start to finish. The rise of mobile web-browsing has created a scanning mentality when it comes to consuming digital content. Users look for headlines and callouts of particular interest to quickly find the information they need without reading everything.
White space improves scanability by reducing the amount of text and organizing it into a clean visual hierarchy. Breaking down the most important pieces of information into quickly digestible headlines or chunks of text helps users understand your main idea and take away what is relevant for them.
In addition to making your site easier to read, white space also makes your content easier for users to retain. Research has shown that our short term memory can retain about 7 items before we start to forget.
Using white space to separate text and organize content helps users create a mental map of your content that improves retention and can increase comprehension by up to 20%.
By using white space to group your content into a few relevant chunks, you can prevent information overload and make your content more enjoyable and ultimately more actionable for the user.
Since we can only process so much information at one time, you have to assume that your user has arrived to your site with several of these coveted spots in their working memory already occupied, by unanswered emails, mental grocery lists, the Top 40 earworm that’s been stuck in their head since the drive to work, thoughts of an afternoon snack…
The most strategic use of white space in UX design is achieved by infusing design principles with psychological principles. White space guides human attention, memory, and motivation by limiting what a user can focus on at any given moment. White space simplifies the interactions between a user and your site, which in turn simplifies interactions between a user (consumer) and you.
By using white space to reduce on-page distractions and eliminate unnecessary information, you focus your user’s attention on the task at hand (be it a purchase or completing a form)—making them much more likely to complete it.
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