Explaining whitespace

Earlier, I wrote a post on the power of whitespace (and line-height!).

Recently there seems to be a discussion about whether or not to have stuff above the fold, or if the fold is now mythical, etc. Anyway, while discussing some of this, the following post made an interesting comment about how to explain whitespace to clients who want to cram everything into a page:

… the more you add, the more you detract from what is there. I think this should be the key to our approach when explaining white space to clients. Instead of selling white space on the fact that it looks better we should be selling it by pointing out that every element added to a page detracts from the rest.

Paul Boag, Home Sweet Home, Vitamin, August 14, 2007

Thats a good proactive way of doing it, rather than saying “well, everyone knows whitespace is good!” Also allows the client to appreciate and understand the issue and buy into the idea rather than grudgingly accept it.

3 thoughts on “Explaining whitespace

  1. The problem I’ve found when working on sites for a big organisations is that every dept wants their spot on the homepage and wants it above the fold. I’ve had this debate for a while, but I generally end up losing, which ends up with over complex homepages.

    It also raises the issue of who owns a site, how much should a designer answer to marketing or to the CEO. Unfortunately designers are often bottom of the pecking order.

  2. Sam: you make a good point. I think this is a common problem, too.

    A large client I worked with suffered from this problem all the time. It was their marketing department that complained to me when I was giving them a training course on accessibility that other parts of the business were demanding all the pixels be used up!

    When the accessibility and usability benefits of white space was explained to them, or additional points given (as many appreciated the importance), they felt better armed with information to go back to their business with.

    In about a year or so (quick time for such a large organisation!) I was pleasantly surprised at the changes they made to their various home/landing pages. Less certainly felt like more in that case.

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