What is the most important web design principle? People ask me that question all the time. The most important web design principle is know your buyer’s persona inside and out. I usually answer the question, though, with the most difficult web design principle to explain to clients: white space.

“White space” to a client equals “nothing space,” space that is empty and has no information or calls-to-action–pointless space. When every second can matter in a user’s purchasing decision, why would we intentionally add “nothing space”? The short answer is, because, done properly, it isn’t really “nothing” and can help increase conversions on your website.

What Is White Space?

White space is unused space around an object or, put another way, the area between elements on a page. It is used in all sorts of design: the space between tables in a restaurant, the space between a headline and a paragraph on a website, the space between tour dates and the artist’s name on a poster. Even sound design and music utilize white space.

“Think about music for a moment. If every note or chord were played at the same time, you wouldn’t have music. You’d have noise. Music occurs when sounds are contrasted against silence. Varying the pattern of sound and silence creates rhythm and melody. Without the silence, there is no music.” – Smashing Magazine

The same is true for your website. The elements which make up your brand’s story, how you solve problems for your users, and your unique value proposition all need space to breathe.

White space gives a user room to think about what they’ve just seen and what they’ve just read. It is an active element on every page that should be used to your advantage.

Why Should I Let My Designer Keep the White Space?

Space on a page influences:

  • hierarchy – it helps the user know what’s most important
  • groupings – it helps the user know what goes together
  • focus – it guides the user through the page in a strategic way
  • legibility – it helps the user read and comprehend your message
  • tone – a page without enough white space creates stress for the user
  • story – which information you give when greatly influences the way a story is processed, including your brand’s story and the story of your product/service

There are times to use more white space and times to use less. If you and your designer are having a disagreement about the amount of white space, test it. Services like Usability Hub will allow you to determine what works best.

If you’re looking for a web designer with a keen eye for white space, don’t be shy about contacting us.

For more reading, check out A List Apart and Prototypr.io.