Why You Should Rethink White Space When You Design Your Profile

November 21, 2016

As a creative, if you want clients, you need a portfolio and it needs to be good.  Most creatives understand the importance of colour balance, showcasing your best work first, an intuitive layout, and so on. But if you want your portfolio to stand out and create that professional feel, white space is one area where first timers, and even seasoned experts, often come up short. 

First, a working definition. White space is “blank,” but it doesn’t have to be white, and can be broken down into four elements:

  1. Visual White Space (around graphics, icons, and images)
  2. Layout White Space (Margins, paddings and gutters)
  3. Text White Space (Line-spacing and letter-spacing within text content)
  4. Content White Space (between columns)

White space goes beyond aesthetics. It aims to provide an intelligent organization of the elements on your page. Through simple psychology, we will explore how the human brain interprets white space and in turn, how you can create an interface that users will want to interact with and help elevate your brand to the next level.

1.White Space Increases Readability: 

At its heart, the purpose of white space is to minimise the amount of text/images visitors see all at once and aims reduce clutter in your website design for increased legibility. It is a vacuum of content that separates it from other elements of your website for easy access and readability.

Presenting too much information at once will overwhelm your visitor and could compromise the amount of time they spend on your site. Making conscious decisions about the white space between paragraphs, left and right margins, and around blocks of text and images can improve readability and comprehension, keeping visitors on your site longer and more engaged.

Adding white space to your website design creates a good first impression and helps visitors to your website focus on what they came there for in the first place: the content.

2.White Space Increases Interaction:

A busy, cluttered page can lead to a website which is hard to navigate, and in turn, to a high bounce rate.  White space directly influences user experience, guiding users’ eyes to strategic points of interaction.

Use white space to give users visual clues about where they should be looking and clicking, and to isolate elements so they’re easy to process. This accelerates your user’s search for information by clarifying your message.

3.White Space Highlights your Call-To-Action:

The most obvious way to make something stand out is to enlarge your images and buttons, but, surrounding the item with white space can be just as effective. Adding white space around elements can emphasize importance, great for highlighting your call-to-action.

White space around headlines and buttons slows your user down, creating a focus that makes your message stand out.

When designing for responsive websites, the addition of white space in your website’s design can help your layout adapt from desktop to mobile for a consistent user experience. When downsizing to the mobile view, the white space makes your content breathable, allowing text to take more space, be legible, and buttons easy to click.

The power of white space comes from the limits of human attention and memory. The human brain tends to emphasise design elements that are surrounded by white space. This is why important design elements like a brand’s logo are often surrounded by white space. This white space helps keep your logo separate from other elements, emphasising it, and making it clearly visible so that the viewer is drawn to your branding and doesn’t confuse it with other images.

4.White Space Adds an air of Sophistication:

As minimalism has become synonymous with modern luxury, less really is more, and adding elements of white space to your website design can elicit feelings of sophistication and elegance. You can see this at play when going to high-end fashion or jewellery websites. Rather than trying to improve your website’s design by adding more imagery and content, white space does its job so that you can focus on making those graphic elements look their very best.

Where you might think white space makes your website bare, when used correctly, it can actually contribute to your brand positioning and persona by adding a sense of elegance.

5.White Space Needs Balance:

Having too little white space can lead to confusion and disorganization – these are qualities you don’t want associated with your website design. On the other hand, too much white space could highlight a lack of content or user guidance, and can weaken the relationship between elements on your page.  White space acts as a tool to achieve balance and harmony in your design. It can prioritize elements to emphasize what’s most important, what’s related, and guide eyes to what needs users attention.

Balance is a basic design principle that takes into consideration all elements of your website and allows you to control the flow of your page, guiding the user from one element to another and make your page appear more neat and attractive.

6.White Space Acts as a Separator:

White space separates unrelated elements in your website design to avoid clutter and improve your overall layout. As a tool, it can break down those chunks of content on your site for easy accessibility and clearer communication. Think of it as a buffer in between elements to guide users to relevant content and focus their eye from one point to another. This can be part of your design strategy to lead the viewer around your website as you intended.

Properly using white space in your website design allows for users’ brains to process each group as it’s own separate entity, making it easier for you to organise several design elements at once and help readers understand what text are related to the images.

Beyond improving readability and comprehension, white space also helps create mental maps. Having the right-side navigation focused more on creating and saving content, white space separates it from the content stream and help assign different functionalities of your website to different parts of the interface.

‘Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.’

– Antoine de Saint-Exupery

When it comes to website design, sometimes the elements you leave out are just as important as the ones you create.

Although visually empty, white space is an active element of your website design and when used properly, can pave the way to a clearer communication of ideas and a richer user experience. The skill of using white space lies in providing your users with a digestible amount of content, then stripping away any extra details.

White space is not only responsible for increased legibility and content prioritization, but it can also play a key role in your overall visual layout and brand positioning.

Author Bio: Neil Parbhu is a freelance writer for Format, your online portfolio website maker. Format makes it easy to build a professional portfolio website—without learning to code—in minutes. Used by tens of thousands of photographers, designers, artists and illustrators in over 190 countries, Format allows people to beautifully showcase their work online, attract clients and grow their careers.