UX and the white space — DAY 25

Every UX designer have heard about the term ‘white space’, right? If you don’t know what is it about, I’ve got to tell you that you probably have already been using it in your layouts. White space is the equivalent of negative space, and refers to all the empty space between any element in your page or layout. Even though you use it, at least, unconsciously, this is very neglected by most professionals being often used as a perception and not as a tool to make your layout cleaner and more understandable.

Ok, but what is this really about?

The white space is a very useful tool to make your layout more efficient, and that’s why is a very important tool for UX designers. Some researches say that users usually take up to 10 seconds to decide if they will stay in your page or not, so providing a very good sense of organization, and making your user find what he is looking for contribute to make him to stay. The white space has four main elements:

  • Space around any graphics or images
  • Space related to margins, paddings and gutters
  • Line-spacing and letter-spacing within text content
  • Space between columns

White space is also closely related to our cognition. Empty areas help on drawing attention, accentuating elements and making sure that they are not competing for attention between each other. It’s not just aesthetic, it has real functions. As Steve Scott says in his book Don’t make me think!, users are always in a mission, usually in a hurry, and providing them with properly adopted white spaces improve their comprehension, making easier for them to get successful on their tasks.

Adopting white space properly between paragraphs and in the left and right margins has been proven to increase comprehension up to 20%, as pointed out by Dmitry Fadeyev. (JERRY CAO AND KAMIL ZIEBA AND MATT ELLIS)

The white space definitely improves comprehension, and does it by:

  • Allowing a better readability
  • Making it easier to scan the content
  • Clarifying relationships between elements
  • Prioritizing elements
  • Attracting and guiding the attention
  • Creating a sense of sophistication, organization and elegance

So, when you organize your layout, you deliver to the users only the necessary amount of information at a time, making them decide if they will deepen into it or not. You make them understand what title is related to what piece of text. You save their time, you guide their reading and you eventually improve their usability. This is why white spacing is a so important concept for UX, and why you should always create your layouts observing and testing how your users are perceiving it.


Roberto Pesce — aboutusers.com

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