How to Effectively Use White Space in a Web Design

When you’re designing a website or its layout one thing that you should never overlook is its white space. Although perennially underestimated, white space plays a crucial part in every design, and can quite literally ‘make or break’ a website.

Part of the reason why white space is very often underestimated is because many new designers don’t really understand it, let alone know how to use it effectively. Although many designers may instinctively incorporate white space in their designs, understanding it further can improve upon that.

What is White Space?

White space (also sometimes known as ‘negative space’) is any part of a design that does not contain any elements. It is often incorrectly thought to be the space between designs – which is inaccurate as white space is actually part and parcel of the design itself. In fact, white space can actually be treated as an element in its own right – as confusing as that sounds.

The reason why white space is so important in web design is due to the crucial role that it plays. If properly employed white space can be used to create focus, separate elements, establish an organizational hierarchy, or emphasize certain elements. Considering all websites have elements that are important or that designers would want to draw attention to – white space is an invaluable tool to do just that.

It is worth noting that white space doesn’t have to be ‘white’ in the strictest sense. Because it is simply the absence of elements, more often than not its color is the same as that of the background. In some cases it can even accentuate the background further, by making vividly-colored backgrounds project greater vibrancy, or subtle-colored backgrounds appear calmer.

Putting White Space to Work

While white space is going to be present throughout your design, there are some areas where it is important that you carefully decide how much white space to use. That will be a big part of how you can effectively use white space in your web design, and there are two areas in particular that you should look at:

White space around elements

Certain elements in your web design are bound to be more important than others, such as the header, navigation, and so on. By using white space, you can draw attention to these elements and make them stand out against the rest of the design.

Ideally you should go one step further however, and use white space to actually dictate the hierarchy of importance for these elements. The way to do this is to employ white space so that more important elements receive more focus, while less important ones receive less.

One example that typifies this approach is the iconic design of Google itself. As you undoubtedly know its website utilizes abundant white space so that the viewer immediately focuses on what is important: The search.

As much as you can vary the white space throughout your design to establish this hierarchy, it is important to still be consistent when dealing with groups of elements. For example graphics in your content should always have a consistent amount of white space around them – otherwise the design will start to look messy.

White space within the copy

Where the aim of using white space around elements is to create focus, within the copy it is more about readability. Normally that is done by adjusting the space between lines as well as the space between characters (also known as ‘leading’ and ‘tracking’).

Another way to use white space within a copy is to change its alignment. For example if the copy is mostly left-aligned, then having one paragraph that is right-aligned will leave white space on the left and cause it to stand out. Generally this method is used for quotes, call-outs and other important sections of text.

Be sure to remember that there are no firm rules for using white space within the copy of a web design, because its ‘readability’ will differ depending on the font that is in use. The common practice is to play around with both the leading and tracking until it meets a satisfactory standard.

Keep in mind that the each block of the copy should be treated as an element, so to draw focus to it there should be sufficient white space all around it as well.

Now that you have some idea of how to use white space effectively in your web designs you should experiment and see how much of a difference it can make. It might be worth discussing it with a website designer Adelaide, particularly if you’re after a minimalistic look that puts certain elements sharply in focus. With the right amount of white space, your web designs should start to look a lot better overall and perform better too.

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