Putting White Space To Work For You

Your website should be about your customers

Gear your website’s design & messaging around your customers needs.

When small business owners and non-profits choose us for the purpose of designing and developing a website for their particular entity, without exception, somewhere in the midst of our initial conversations there is some mention about wanting a site that may be described as any/all of the following:

  • Professional looking
  • Clean
  • Simple
  • Attractive
  • Polished

The list of descriptives could potentially go on.

It’s not a surprise at all that people would want something that they feel like casts their organization in a positive light.

Unfortunately, many folks running websites today haven’t or don’t take into consideration how the layout and structure of their site plays to their target audience, they only have themselves in mind. Hey, I’ll admit that I’ve been there myself.

Quick tip for ya: Your website – it’s design, it’s content…everything about it should not be to solely satisfy your likes and preferences or to meet your own needs. Your website’s messaging should be solely focused on how it’s going to effectively communicate with those folks you want to do business with you. Period. If that was shorter than 140 characters I’d say that’s tweetable : )

There are a variety of things to think about in terms of your website’s design whether you’re a current website owner or looking to build one somewhere in the near future. The one that I want to address with you today concerns usage of ‘white space‘ on the pages of your website.

What is White Space?

Not familiar with that terminology? Here’s a nice working definition…

White space refers to space between paragraphs, images, buttons, icons and any other elements residing on your website page. It’s function is to unclutter a page’s design; to bring some modicum of order, simplicity and elegance to a page’ structure and ultimately its’ content.

The examples below should help paint a clearer picture as to what we’re talking about. Pay particular attention to the spacing allocated either between lines of text or between images and content or whatever the page elements may be as we just discussed above. This is not original to me but I like to say to potential clients in discussing my design philosophy that you’re allowing any element(s) on a page ‘room to breathe‘ and making it easy on the eyes and setting the stage for a positive user experience.

 

Example showing good and bad use of whitespace

 

example of whitespace

 

wearefixel.com-20110214-105154

 

What Are The Benefits To Using White Space?

As we discuss the proper usage of white space on a website’s pages we’re looking much deeper than just incorporating the latest design trend or making a good attempt at appearing chic and with it – we’re looking at how it can serve the needs, first and foremost, of your readers. Ultimately if it benefits your users it stands to reason that there could be some nice residual for you and your business.

Again, whether you already own a site or are thinking about venturing down that road, it’s imperative to first consider who your target audience is and then apply best practices in terms of design and layout structure that will best suit them – you want your website to become ‘sticky‘ in the sense that when a reader lands on it they’re likely to hang out for a bit and read and digest your content. White space is your friend and can be a most effective design practice to employ in order to help you achieve that.

Below are 3 ways your reader is going to benefit from you applying white space throughout your website.

Comprehension

Making sure that there is adequate white space in the following areas has shown that it can lead to a 20% increase in a reader’s comprehension of the content on a page. There’s good examples in the images above.

  • Between blocks of text such as paragraphs
  • In the margins

After all isn’t the whole purpose behind building a website for yourself but to tell the story of your business and the products and services its’ desiring for you to buy? As business owners we can say all the right things but if it isn’t displayed and laid out in such a way through the use of white space then most likely our efforts are in vain.

When thoughtful effort is put into making our page’s content more readable we allow our audience an opportunity to gain greater knowledge and understanding about us and what we have to offer them.

Focus

You might be hard pressed to find better examples of the use of white space than in Google and Apple. Both companies are masterful in their application of it. Notice in the examples below the prominence Google gives to its’ search application as well as how Apple orients it’s page for the iPad around an image of it. The white space used in both act as a sort of spotlight bringing a singular focus & heightened attention to where they want it to be – their products that they want you to interact with. Read more research about this here.

 

Google's use of whitespace on their search page

 

Apple's use of whitespace

 

 

Trust

Research has shown that the appropriate usage of white space in a website’s design can very well to lead to a user’s increased level of trust with a brand.

Did you get that because it’s huge??

You might not quickly recognize it but for each of us, when we visit a website, there are a number of thoughts, feelings and emotions that are being formulated about that particular brand. We’re trying our best to gauge whether this is a company that is credible and who we’d like to do business with.

First impressions are everything aren’t they? I know for me, if my initial assessment is that a page is professional looking, clean, simple and makes good use of white space, well that business has just then gotten me over at least one hurdle in terms of them earning my trust.

How does the line go – ‘people tend to do business with those they know, like and trust.’

Some Parting Thoughts

Are you starting to see how something so simple to implement can be so advantageous to both the business and it’s website user base.

Achieving a great looking design is more than slapping a bunch of pretty pictures on a page – it’s much bigger than that and requires a more holistic view and that should include the implementation of white space throughout each page on a website.

Take some time to review your website or better yet ask some trusted friends or colleagues for their feedback. If you get some not so favorable responses to the following then it might be a cue to go back and incorporate some good white space where applicable.

  • Be brave and ask them what their first impressions are?
  • Do the main things you want to showcase draw their focus?
  • Is your content relatively easy to comprehend?

Keeping the structure of each page of your website simple will further endear your users to you and help generate some of that likeability I’ve talked about. With the use of white space throughout your site you’ll proudly provide them an experience that is a breath of fresh air where they may be all the more inclined to stick on your site and find out more about you.

It goes without saying that the longer you can keep a user on your site the more likely they’ll go away with a good feeling about you which could potentially vault you into a position with them to where they may evenutally want to buy what you’re selling.

If this content has been of any benefit to you or you think someone you know might could use this information, would you mind sharing it with them or through your community online by using the sharing buttons below. That would be awesome! Thanks!

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Looking for some good examples of white space utilization? Check these out…

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