Does White Space Bother You?
For all the clients out there who are bothered by white space and like to “jazz” things up, here are some things to consider:
For starters, just in case you expressed that you wanted a clean design, similar to (insert website with good use of white space here), does the white space bother you on that website? Why or why not?
Any good graphic designer will tell you that white space, more appropriately called “empty space” is a crucial aspect of page layout. It helps to focus on what’s important. It’s the reason why we hang a few pictures on our wall and not completely cover the wall with pictures. There is a saying I learned when studying typography, “if everything is bold, then nothing is bold.” It means that if you make everything bold, you are defeating the purpose of bold – to emphasize. And I think this applies to white space – if you try and cover every bit of white space with photos, ads, or something else, you are defeating the purpose of white space – to emphasize what’s really important.
The reality of context
I deal with this situation on a regular basis. Clients who have never studied graphic design have a hard time coping with white space, even though they visit websites and read magazines that make use of white space. Clients may not be aware of what I call “the reality of context.” You are looking at your website through a completely different lens than the person who is actually using your website. You are making decisions about the site, you are paying for the site, and you are closely involved with your business. But the person using your site is just looking for information and knows very little about your business; as long as the site is clean, professional, and well organized, they will have a positive experience.
Usability testing provides the real answers
Clients who understand that a site does not hinge on white space may also know that the real answers about design (for anything) are found in usability testing. If you ever get the chance to see a web usability test for your website or another website, it will most likely be an eye opening experience. And as I stated above, you will see that the mindset of “building a website” is completely different than that of “using a website.”
During these tests, issues will be uncovered about your website that you would never even dream of and are completely off of your radar. Or, you will be assured that your website is organized and functioning as you would want it to for your audience.
But I can guarantee that during a website usability test, no audience member ever said, “I wish there was less white space.”
Here are a few sample videos that show how people use websites and confirms that white space is the least of their concerns when they are using a website:
- Usability test for campus food website
- Steven Krug’s sample usability test for ZipCar
- Sample usability test for walmart.com created by usertesting.com
Of course, the choice is up to you
If you still feel otherwise, that is fine and there are no hard feelings. All you need to do is mock-up your web pages in Microsoft PowerPoint, exactly what you want them to look like, and I will do my best to accommodate.