If you've ever done design work for a client, you may have received feedback at some point about using too much empty space in your design. Does this ring a bell? Too much blank space is probably one of the most common notes designers get from clients. Why is that?
To the untrained eye, empty space, or whitespace, serves no purpose. Unfortunately, many clients think of it as a waste of valuable real estate. They want to fill it with either content or some kind of design element to "make it pop."
There are a couple of reasons why you might receive this feedback. Either the client is scrutinizing the design a bit too closely, or the design doesn't use whitespace effectively, to the extent that it looks unbalanced.
In this post, we'll examine why whitespace is so important and explore ways to use it. We'll also take a look at some beautiful examples of whitespace in web design and discuss why they're effective.
In design, whitespace is a term that refers to negative space. Although it's called white space, it's not always white. In essence, whitespace is just empty space, similar to the invisible air that surrounds us. It can take any color so long as it's devoid of any visual elements, like shapes, text, or images.
Whitespace is everywhere in the design world. We see it on the web, on the pages of the books we read, and on food packaging labels. It's so ubiquitous that most of the time, we don't even notice it. But in a way, that's kind of the point.
Unlike other visual design elements, whitespace is invisible. In fact, the main purpose of using white space in design is to separate and emphasize other design elements. However, in some instances, the whitespace is so dominant that you can't help but notice it. This can be done intentionally if emptiness has symbolic meaning in a design.
As a designer, you're likely familiar with whitespace and how it's used in design. But did you know that there are two different types?
As the name suggests, micro whitespace refers to small instances of empty space, such as that between letters, lines of text, and grid images. Micro whitespace is subtle and is typically used to ensure that text elements are legible and that visual elements in a grid or pattern don't look cluttered. For instance, when designing a photo gallery for the web, you need micro whitespace to visually separate the photos so that they don't look like one giant, confusing image.
Macro whitespace, on the other hand, refers to larger areas of empty space in a design. This is typically what comes to mind when thinking about the use of whitespace in design. Examples of macro whitespace include the margins on the left and right of this blog post and the separation between the logo and the menu in our top navigation bar.
Like we mentioned above, the role of whitespace in design isn't always intuitive, especially for non-designers. However, as we've hinted at, whitespace actually plays a few important roles in a design. Here are a few reasons why good design needs white space.
Letters that are either too tightly crammed together or too widely spaced apart are really hard to read. This is where micro whitespace comes in. Although there are no hard rules when it comes to letter- and line-spacing, if it takes effort to read, the spacing needs adjustment.
Without whitespace to separate elements, a design can look pretty confusing. If it's not clear which elements belong together and which don't, users are in for a terrible experience. Keep your users happy by adding whitespace to help them focus on one element at a time.
A design with poor use of whitespace, or a complete lack thereof, can appear disharmonious. Harmony is important in design because it creates an effect of unity or completeness. Although there are multiple factors that contribute to harmony, whitespace is a pretty vital one.
Click here to learn about more visual design principles that make good design.
Now that we've covered what whitespace is and why it's so important, let's look at some examples of it on the web. The following are 10 stunning web designs that use white space effectively.
This website design by Cuberto is a classic example of a minimalist design that makes use of ample whitespace. The text on the website is pretty sparse and amplified through size and color. Minimal text combined with abundant whitespace helps the user focus on the beautiful images and large headlines.
In this example, much of the whitespace in the design is actually white. And yet, the design is anything but boring. The overall effect is clean, fresh, and modern--exactly what you would expect from a quality app.
This ultra-minimalist website pairs exaggerated empty space with curated, large images to create an edgy look that's highly effective. There are also some neat hover effects that make the website interactive and give it a premium feel.
Although this look works well for an art director's portfolio, it's not the most practical design for most types of websites. However, it's a good example of how negative space can actually add to a design, even if it takes up half the screen.
Canvas Agency's website is a beautiful example of macro and micro whitespace in action. Like the previous website we looked at, whitespace here is used in exaggeration to create an artistic effect. The image grid on the homepage somehow looks balanced, despite the uneven padding and margin.
Most e-commerce websites out there seem to miss the point of whitespace, inadvertently creating an overwhelming shopping experience (looking at you, Amazon!). Not so for Twigs Paper. Kudos to the design team behind Twigs Paper's website for creating an online shopping experience that feels warm, soothing, and fluid. This is thanks in no small part to whitespace.
The hero section of the homepage is a great example of how whitespace can be used in photography as well. The combination of the background photo with the typography on the left appears balanced and easy on the eyes.
Blue Marine Foundation's interactive website, The Sea We Breathe, is a stunning showcase of the power of whitespace in web design. However, the way it's used here isn't what you'd typically expect when you think of whitespace. In fact, there's no completely empty space at all since the website features full-screen imagery on every page. And yet, the effect is the same.
Since the full-screen animations are the focal point of the website, the rest of the design elements are kept relatively simple in order to avoid overwhelming the user. The text is fairly minimal and the main headlines appear front and center as you scroll. All-in-all, the website is a delight to navigate, and although there's a lot going on beneath the surface, the experience feels very fluid thanks to these intentional design choices.
Looking for more jaw-dropping web design inspiration like this site? Check out our curated list of top inspiration websites.
The new electric bike brand Cowboy appears to have taken a page directly out of Apple's book when it comes to minimalist web design. The ultra-modern website features full-width product images set against a monochromatic background and paired with minimal text. The use of whitespace here creates a sleek and high-tech look that fits the brand and its products.
The use of minimalist design for high-tech, premium products is a trend that likely started with Apple and has become more ubiquitous over the years. Other examples include innovative brands like Tesla, MIRROR, and Peloton.
Gsoft's sleek website has a minimalist aesthetic similar to the other sites on this list, but with a playful touch. The overall design is simple and trendy, featuring large typography, floating images, and of course, ample whitespace.
The homepage background is all one color: a soft and unassuming light grey. What makes the design feel unique and friendly is the addition of imperfect line drawings and smooth animations. Both macro and micro whitespace are used to great effect here.
For another example of using whitespace to create a premium aesthetic, look no farther than Liron Moran Interiors' website. This stunning yet simple design combines oversized type, curated photography, and a unique scrolling effect to create a beautiful and intuitive website experience.
This web design is yet another example that the old adage "less is more" really rings true in the design world. There's not much content on the page to provide context, but you don't really need it. The words "iconic interiors" are mostly obscured, and yet you get the idea. The design has almost an architectural feel to it that suits the brand perfectly.
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Shapefarm’s award-winning portfolio website is another beautiful example of how whitespace helps designs flow intuitively. The text, images, and other graphic elements on the page have ample breathing room. As a user, you feel that you can take your time exploring the site and playing around with interactive elements along the way.
The messaging on Shapefarm’s website is fairly simple: they are a team of developers who turn dreams into games. Whereas some sites need more content to explain what a brand is all about, for a portfolio site like this, the visuals are really the key component; whitespace helps present them beautifully.
Ferro13’s web design is somewhat unexpected for a wine brand but in a good way. In fact, it feels more like a portfolio than an e-commerce site. Each wine has its own long-scrolling product page that resembles a case study, complete with descriptive text, mood board-like images, and videos.
The black-and-white design, complete with large, bold typography and plenty of negative space, is engaging and fun to interact with. It’s certain to stand out among its competitors and leave a mark on the user.
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