Embracing the Hidden Power of Nothingness in Web design

Within a tiny box, there is only so much that you can say, do and offer within the real estate of your web space. Now that’s very valuable space we speak of, because the success of being able to create your message in the correct manner depends not always on the amount of text or images you infuse into the web screen, but also to a huge extent ,on how much you say without really saying it. The possibilities of this ‘nothingness’ is infinite.

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White space in web design

A ‘white space’ in web design, or as some would term it as ‘negative space’, refers to any screen space between existing elements. It may not necessarily be white or blank. It’s actually a vacuum of content which draws more attention to the existing content. It’s one huge microcosm of a microcosm. It’s what brings forth the difference between order and chaos; easy and messy. It’s the defining element of the ‘big picture’ concept.

The Aesthetic Properties of White Space in Web Design

More than just the fundamentals of UI design principles, the very carving out the design of the white space is what would tie up the overall composition. This white space is so critical for the final effect because it exists in almost every layout style.

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Thing is, not always is the minimalistic approach the best choice for a web project. This white space in web design needs to be recognized and only then will it achieve its success. So even a very beautifully crafted website would need features like spectacular typography, colours and symmetry to provide the balance. The natural visual story-telling effect is achieved with the combination of these, which eventually results in amplifying the white space and forcing visitors to focus their attention on areas that speak out the message.  The crisp contrast between the elements is what does the trick. Because of this contrast, you actually notice when content sections are on screen and when they are absent. The most important thing while creating a white space in web design is to make people change unimpressed minds to stick on to the page, by aesthetically crafting out the design and content structure.

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White space in web design can directly lead a user’s eyes to strategic points on a web page. Hence, it is an art to be able to create the perfect layout. Since negative spaces aren’t always visually appealing, it must designed such that it creates the most legible and readable environments above all other duties.

The Three Main Types of White Space

  • Compositional White Space – Space for margins, padding, and general composition
  • Visual White Space – Space for graphics, icons, buttons, or form elements
  • Textual White Space – Space between headers/paragraphs and lines of text

The generic image carousel itself needs compositional white space above and below to separate it from other elements on the page. Then the visual distance between primary images within the carousel needs to be created regardless of the carousel size to avoid clutter and offer visual breathing room. And then finally, the textual white space is required between separate text forms for the right impact and readability.

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white space in web design 1

This hierarchy of white space may not all be used by all pages, but almost every page will incorporate all these elements somewhere or the other in the layout for the perfect balance. Where and how and to what extent white space is used on a page will affect its role. And to simplify this, we need to further break down the above types up into macro and micro. All great websites integrate both categories into their layout design.

  • Macro White Space

The macro white space refers to the spacing between large elements. For instance, for the general composition, for separating different elements, for text columns, margins, padding and also for spaces within actual graphics/images. Macro white space is what can be referred to as the ‘big picture’ and web designers usually start a new project by first creating a wireframe that visually demonstrates this space on the page. The use of the macro white space is immense. It heavily affects the user’s visual flow, either in a gentle or a forceful manner by luring the user to look where you want them to. The secret of this technique is that the larger the distance, the harder the push.

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white space in web design

  • Micro White Space

The space between smaller elements or the elements within greater elements is referred to as the micro white space. The spaces between letters, lines of text, paragraphs, page headers, list items, navigation links, buttons and icons constitute the micro white space. These spaces are usually used for achieving overall clarity of the page, especially the legibility of typography. What it does is that it strikes a balance between just enough to give clarity and yet not so much that it distracts the visitor from important elements. These spaces also aid in suggesting a relationship between small elements and mimicking this treatment elsewhere reinforces a pattern.

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Basically, white space in web design can be seen as being minimalistic which is more of a design philosophy that is neither bad nor good. It is used to remove any kind of noise so that users can be lead to focus on the content. Trimming away bells and whistles keeps the remaining content standing proud amidst the elegance of space.

Keval Padia is a Founder & CEO of Nimblechapps, a fast-growing iPhone app development company. The current innovation and updates of the field lure him to express his views and thoughts on certain topics.