The Tactical Use of Whitespace in Web Design

Silence between notes in music creates a rhythm that seizes our attention. When a speaker pauses in the middle of a sentence, we eagerly anticipate their next words as we imagine what they might say. White space between objects makes them stand out better and seem more attractive. Visit an art gallery and you will see this is action. Web developers use whitespace in web design to direct our thoughts too.

Commercial White Space in a Brick and Mortar World

Paper and ink newspapers are tables with blocks of content fitted in. If there were no space between the blocks, the content would be jumbled and hard to read. Where space is at a premium, editors compensate with headings and line spacing. In upmarket magazines, they use generous whitespace for elegant effects.

The Tactical Use of Whitespace in Web Design

Of course, whitespace in web design does not have to be white. The term comes from the color of newsprint, which is light. In web design, any background color serves as ‘whitespace’. If it is dark, we can create stunning effects. If the background is light, it fascinates us. Consider this page


Notice how the whites pace draws our eye directly to the video set dead center in the page. And the four intriguing boxes below it. There is no need for a written call to action. We are going to play that video; it is just a question of when.

This features a generous of use white space because this is a landing page, not a content page. Then peripheral information was added in soft blue and orange hues. The overall effect is ‘please come in, you can trust us’. How do you achieve this effect?

The Psychology of Closure

We all have an inbuilt desire for completeness, and balance. When we tie a loose shoelace, we usually do the other one too. When we see the Apple logo, we notice the fruit, not the bite. When you see the Chanel logo, do you sense the circles or the letters first? You most likely saw the circles because of your desire for closure.

Psychologists believe our desire for closure is the spark behind our creativity. A blank canvas inspires an artist to add a picture. A new document invites a writer to start typing. Try watching a video with the sound turned off. We can’t stand incompleteness. Our search for it is an obsession.

Drawing the Threads Together

Whitespace creates order in content. It would be difficult to read this document if there were no line and paragraph spacings. However, there is more to it than that. Whitespace in web design is an opportunity for our visitors to pause and think. When they pause and think, they become creative just like the artist.

For a nano second, our visitors fill the silence in the space with their expectations. Tactical whitespace in web design involves placing these pauses at critical decision points.
The Bridges to Recovery website offers care, compassion and healing to people passing through, and recovering from psychological trauma. We placed the invitation to enter in an acre of whitespace. Because we understand that it’s a commitment that their clients need to think about.