How Much is Too Much Whitespace?

White causes a lot of problems. Try doing a Google search on, “Is white a color?” and you’ll quickly learn that everyone has a different opinion on whether or not white deserves the title of a color. Wikipedia refers to it as an “achromatic color,” while other websites say that white is “the absence of color.” But white doesn’t stop causing problems there. It also sparks a huge debate among designers. Is white good, bad or a little of both?

Flat Design and Whitespace: The Perfect Marriage

These days, it’s hard to say if whitespace is good or bad. A lot of this has to do with the fact that flat design has become so popular. Many designers take the “less is more” approach with their designs, and it pays off. Users prefer visiting websites that are light, breezy and all-around enjoyable to use compared to the ad-crazy and content-hungry designs of the past. To help make the designs look minimal, some pure, blank whitespace is an amazing resource.

While it’s true that a fair amount of whitespace can make a page feel cool and confident, it’s also possible to have too much of a good thing. Too much whitespace can make a page look lazy and bland. It can cause a reader to zone out, as if they were looking at a blanket of fresh snow. Rather than capturing their attention, you’re losing them in La La Land. Wherever that is.

Now that we’ve addressed that whitespace can be both bad and good, how can you make sure that you’re using it appropriately? After all, those designer eyes do get tired after a day of staring at your screen, and it may be hard to tell whether there’s too much white on the page, or if you’re just dreaming of clouds and sleep.

What to Watch for When Adding Whitespace

In many cases, you will be able to tell if a design has too much whitespace right off the bat. But not all websites are that obvious. It is possible for the design to look okay to the naked eye, but it’s not converting users so you know that something is up. Taking a closer look, you may uncover that the site design does not do a good job of giving users direction and enticing them to learn more.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when determining if there is too much whitespace on the page.

  • Does the page have direction?

  • Do visitors know where to go?

  • Are call to action buttons visible?  

  • Does the content pull readers in?

  • Does the site have a high bounce rate?

  • Does the design feel bland and uninspired?

There really is no benchmark for how much whitespace is too much. The goal is to make sure that you’re using the right design for your audience. For example, Amazon has hardly any whitespace on their ecommerce site, yet people have managed to use it successfully for years. On the other hand, Facebook loves its whitespace, and people are just as happy.

What if More Whitespace is Needed?

What happens if you find that the site could use some more whitespace? Luckily for you, whitespace can be added without having to do an entire site redesign. With some smart style sheet rules, such as incorporating more space around margins, you can achieve a better design.

Below are some tips to consider when adding more whitespace.

  • Conversion tests show that between 520 and 550 pixels of reading space is the sweet spot.

  • Add ample space around the edges of your pages.

  • Add padding around images.

  • Increase the line height for better readability.

  • Use negative space around elements that you want to draw attention to, such as your logo, headline and subheadline.

What are the Benefits to Whitespace?

The right amount of whitespace can make a huge difference in the site design, but what does it really mean for users? Do they notice - or even care? They do. They may not be able to vocalize to you, “Hey, I really enjoy your website but it has far too much or too little whitespace for my taste,” but you can see it in their actions.

Here are some of the benefits to whitespace that go beyond the obvious design perks.

  • Margins greatly improve reading comprehension. In fact, some studies have shown that comprehension can be improved by almost 20%.

  • Readers better understand your offer and what you expect from them. This means they are more likely to follow through with your call to action.

  • Whitespace improves legibility and draws attention to appropriate areas, such as a call to action button.

  • Whitespace exudes openness, freshness and sophistication, which can instill trust in users.

Conclusion

Whitespace is an essential building block of good design. But it is possible to have too much of a good thing - at least in this case. You don’t want to add so much whitespace that you end up wasting precious real estate that could have been used to promote your messages and products. What you need to focus on is finding the balance between minimalism and achieving your business goals.

About the Author: Nicole Krosnowski

Nicole is a Designer at SEMGeeks. She is a Jersey girl who loves to “go down the shore” and spend her time at the beach. Nicole is a creative thinker, fueled by iced coffee and innovation. She loves to stay up to date with the latest trends in fashion and technology and uses this as design inspiration. With experience in web design, digital design and advertising, she approaches each project with a designer’s careful eye and a marketer’s strategic thought process.

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