Negative space in web design
Negative space in web design is often called “white space” or “empty space.” Its uses are different compared to in other media, but it’s even more important.
Do any of these sound familiar?
You selected a navigation button, but you accidentally clicked on a different link positioned too closely.
You couldn’t even find the link you wanted because there were too many.
You got a headache from trying to read walls of text.
You were bombarded by an entire screen of tightly packed content that immediately overwhelmed you.
If you’re like me, you instantly leave and find a different, better site.
Websites that don’t embrace empty space only end up with empty messaging.
Expert brands do know this fact. Just look.
Great examples of websites using negative space:
Clearbit flawlessly delivers concise messaging:
Baremetrics, a leading analytics company, loves empty space. With the sheer amount of data they analyze, it’s safe to assume their approach is driven by results and not aesthetics:
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has a message so powerful it’s far more impactful to have it stand alone:
Asana’s entire site thrives by using white space to highlight the platform’s key benefits and features:
Care/of does an excellent job of proving white space doesn’t have to be white:
Ever hear of a little company called Apple? Each section of their site is a pedestal for one specific focus, and nothing else:
And then there is the true master of white space, Google. Google’s legendary homepage directs you to the main actionable item – a door to the internet:
Even Google’s search results page utilizes less than half the screen on desktop displays. Google knows what you’re looking for and leads you directly to it without distraction:
What’s the real reason top brands don’t add more to their pages?
Is it because Google is just lazy? Does Apple not know how to design pages that aren’t half empty? Can’t multi-billion-dollar companies figure out what else to add?
It’s because they know a secret:
Negative space can be used for mind control.
Ok, not literally—but close enough.
You have significant psychological hurdles to overcome when designing your UX.
If you give your users tons of options, they take longer to make choices. If you overload them, they never choose.
While it’s compelling to explain everything you offer, more elements will dilute your core message. Similarly, you want to be thorough, but people don’t like to read. They prefer to skim.
You can’t add a solution to solve these issues. Instead, you must subtract.
White space is the solution.
Reducing what’s on the page gives you control over your users’ choices and when they make them.
Removing elements helps highlight your core messaging. So you gain control of the users’ focus.
Furthermore, prioritizing white space makes your website’s sections skimmable yet still impactful, and the breaks improve user comprehension.
White space allows you to more effectively optimize the user journey and build towards your call to action.
When you limit what’s on the page, your users’ subconscious screams “This is important!” about everything they see.