White, or negative, space can be a powerful tool in the web designer’s toolkit. Long recognized – even subconsciously – as a strong, attention grabbing design element, white space retains its importance on websites.
Defining white space is simple, it is an abundance of empty or unused space around an item that you are drawing attention to. Think of an art gallery where the best pieces don’t share wall space with any other element. It draws attention to the design element that you want to highlight and focuses the mind on what is important.
Even though the attention garnering usage of white space has been known for hundreds of years, it is difficult to find examples of websites that use it and use it well. Google is probably the best and most well-known example, and their usage is well designed and effective, but it is used poorly in many other sites. Fortunately, a recent surge in usage has sparked a new interest in this classic design element.
Designing with negative space
White space doesn’t have to be white; it doesn’t even have to be empty. Any large space that has minimal or no design elements can be used to draw the eye’s focus to a specific element. Busy websites are a dime a dozen and they all have the overuse of design elements in common. Without a natural focal point these websites are less likely to keep the attention of casual or non-familiar users. Having to sort through screens of design elements can quickly become overwhelming causing the casual user to get overloaded with information and give up.
Simple websites are coming back into vogue and the proper use of negative space can give your website even more impact. Having a site that is simple, easy to use and has distinct reference points for the important functions you want your customers to find is much more effective than forcing them to sort through confusing layers of electronic chatter to accomplish the simplest task.
Using white space to your advantage
As a design element, white space is very simple to understand and use. Our eyes are naturally drawn to items that are surrounded by white space and it gives the mind a natural focal point. Designing websites with white space involves little more than highlighting your chosen focus by surrounding it with blank space.
The description is much simpler than execution, however. Designing the focus, choosing the size and shape of the negative space and creating the website itself are as important as choosing the design elements that surround it. It is also possible to misuse or over utilize white space and create a website that has too small of a focus or one that is misplaced.
Creating the perfect web site
Negative space is just one element to maximize your web site while minimizing upkeep and maintenance. Web designers, specifically ones with a classical education, can create a website that looks trendy, has all of the modern capabilities that everyone wants, is easy to update and doesn’t need constant upkeep and maintenance to look as new and modern as other sites.
Granted, the perfect website is a myth, but expanding your design options while maintaining functionality can save you and your company a great deal of time and money over the years. Coca-Cola, for example, redesigned their classic logo once since they settled on their iconic design. When New Coke was rolled out in the 1980s, the company updated their logo. Popular backlash quickly sent New Coke and the new logo into the dumpster and the original brand was brought back. Sometimes the old ways work the best.
Keeping up with the Joneses
Trends in web design can be fleeting. As the internet evolves design elements are rolled out, have their moment in the digital sun and quietly fade away. Maintaining a modern design, calling attention to your site and making it user friendly are important parts of proper web design. The funny thing is, though, that the longer the web is around, the more it looks like traditional advertising.
The reason behind that trend is simple. Traditional advertisers learned over the centuries what design elements – new or old – worked and incorporated them into all of their designs. The artists of the internet age are relearning the old rules and adapting them to an interactive medium. WordPress website design as well as general website design is entering a golden age and not taking advantage of this opportunity could be devastating for your business.
This trend, if you can call traditional design elements trendy, is an absolutely wonderful thing for small companies without a permanent, full-time design staff. By using classical elements, websites can be designed for the long run without worrying about the latest design trend. Elemental bells and whistles can be added to the basic framework without obstructing the classical features and lines.
Designing and developing your company’s website is a very important step in modern business. The explosive growth of the internet and online shopping mean that, in many cases, your web site will be the first look at your company that many people have. Since first impressions are the most important ones having a well-designed and professional web site incorporating classic elements, including the use of white space, can mean the difference between potential customers quickly grasping what is important or potential customers becoming frustrated and visiting your online competition.