What, When, & Why Whitespace: A Crash Course from a UX Engineer

Maribeth Fitzpatrick, Lead UX Engineer
Posted on Aug 23, 2018

When you’re looking at a page on a website, you typically see a combination of text, photos, graphics, and maybe even video. Whitespace is the space between those elements. It’s worth noting that whitespace is not always “white.” In fact, it can be any color or a background texture between text. Sometimes you’ll hear whitespace also referred to as “negative space.”

When does whitespace come up in conversation?

Wireframing phase

We often get asked questions like “will there really be that much space between sections?” The main purpose of this part of our process is to map out the flow and user experience of the site. However, we also indicate in our wireframes where whitespace is strategic by showing how the different content types will work together. The negative space allows content to “breathe” and adds a little interest in what otherwise might be “boring” deliverables of grey boxes and Lorem Ipsum text.

Design phase

There is honestly so much to say about the role whitespace plays in design that we’re going to dedicate a whole separate blog post for it. So, stay tuned!

Development phase

After the client has approved the design comps and we’ve successfully built the front end to match them, we present what we’ve created to the client. This is usually when our clients express their (sometimes sudden) concerns about whitespace.

Being above the fold is so 2002.

The most common concern we hear from clients is that they feel whitespace pushes important content too far down the page. Typically this is expressed by our clients saying something to the effect of “we want all of the content to be above the fold.”

This desire is generally rooted in the fear that users won’t scroll. But because of cell phones and modern websites in general, there is no more fold. In fact,there are studies that prove users do scrolland that they are not averse to do so–they expect it. Not to mention, when you stuff all of your content on the top of your website, it dilutes it.

Why whitespace is absolutely necessary for a good website experience:

  • It makes content more digestible and more likely to be engaged with.
  • Users don’t want to be hit with a wall of text.
  • It helps focus the user on the most critical elements, like call-to-actions, which increases the likelihood of conversion.
  • It adds visual interest to the page.

Do you know if your website has enough whitespace? We can help. Let’s talk!