How To Effectively Use Whitespace in Design For Better Readability

June 26, 2023

Having space between paragraphs and images is not a waste of space, and let me tell you why…

You know where to look at. The focus is clear. No distraction — Photo by Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash

Let’s start with what is white space and it’s importance. Whitespace is one of the 13 basic design principles and refers to any blank or empty space surrounding all other elements in a design composition. It is the space between text, images, buttons and other objects that a user can see on a page or a screen. Now to the question of why it is important — white space makes the text more visible by allowing the user to focus on the content instead of the other elements on the page. It makes everything easy to follow and “scan”. It also provides visual balance to the page, making it easier to navigate and understand.

So whenever a client makes a pushback on the amount of white space on a website, I always try to educate and remind them about the impact of whitespace on user experience and engagement. Some of them don’t want to hear it and just want the distance between elements to shrink, but at least I have given them an explanation of why is the way it is and what are the consequences of their judgement. 🤷🏽‍♀️

White space is good for:

  • Visual Clarity and Focus — imagine a clear and uncluttered layout! Reading and seeing only what you need and where you need it. No visual noise, no distraction. The well-organized and visually balanced design achieved through whitespace can also prompt a sense of professionalism and trust. The opposite is the style of web design that was used in the early and late 2000s. My head spins just thinking about those.
  • Readability and Comprehension — whitespace around text elements improves readability by providing breathing room and separating different sections. Also, well-distributed whitespace improves legibility, making it easier for users to scan and understand the content quickly. Not only that, but appropriate line spacing achieved through whitespace can prevent text from appearing cramped, reducing eye strain and enhancing comprehension.
legibility /ˌlɛdʒɪˈbɪlɪti/ noun, the quality of being clear enough to read. “we’ve increased the type size for greater legibility”
  • Visual Hierarchy — whitespace can be used to create a clear visual hierarchy on a web page, organize content, separate different elements, and guide users’ attention. Most places where white space is used are in the creation of navigation menus, headings, and subheadings to improve the overall user experience.
  • User Interface (UI) Design — whitespace can contribute to better UI design by reducing clutter and enhancing the overall aesthetic appeal. It also has an impact on button placement, form fields, and other interactive elements.
  • Responsive Design — whitespace plays a crucial role in responsive web design, ensuring a consistent and enjoyable user experience across different devices. There are also multiple techniques for using adaptive whitespace to accommodate varying screen sizes and orientations. In mobile-friendly designs and touch interactions, white space is crucial.

Examples of websites or applications that effectively use whitespace in their UI design to improve user interactions:

Apple’s homepage.
Dropbox’s homepage.
Medium’s homepage

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