White space top.001

What Can White Do For You?

For a color —and there is debate whether it even IS a color—white has some serious hidden super powers.

  • Want members to volunteer for an event?
    White can help! 
  • Want to lead visitors deeper into your website?
    White can help keep them engaged.

“White space” refers to the parts of a page which have no text or pictures on them.“White space” bothers some people. They can’t bear to see empty space and not fill it. But professional designers use white space in very purposeful ways— which you can mimic to achieve certain ends.

Learning from Google

Take a look at this web page. What is the first thing you see?

The word “Google” and the search bar right? 

Let’s say you came to Google to find a “Death by Chocolate” cake recipe your PTA president was raving about. Few distractions stand between you and that task.

You visit the page, locate your recipe in under a minute… and before you can say “Wild Thing!” you are licking fudgy goodness off a spatula.

Ta-da!!!! That’s white space at work for you. “White space” helped you stay focused. You did what you came to do, and got what you wanted.

But that’s not white’s only trick!

Learning from Yahoo

Now let’s look at Yahoo’s landing page.
What is the first thing you see?

That is a tougher question. BUT…. You almost certainly noticed the image of Mark Zuckerberg first (since it is the largest, most complex thing on the page), and the mosquito picture (which is 2nd largest). You then noticed other pictures on the page, the weather icons, and you read some captions. 

But wait! Did you notice the search bar at all? 

You may have visited Yahoo with “recipe finding” on your mind, but odds are you quickly became distracted.  Roughly 45 minutes after visiting Yahoo, you may find you know a lot about viruses, Mark Zuckerberg, the weather, and outfits for the gym… but nothing about how to make “Death by Chocolate” cake. And most tragically, you have no chocolate to lick off of a spatula! 

You came looking for one thing, but left with something else.

Boiling it down

Both Google and Yahoo use white space well— but with different purposes in mind. 

Google honored your goal to get a recipe, and used white space to keep you “on task.”

By contrast, Yahoo used your recipe-finding goal as an opportunity to lead you to information you were not looking for. White space hid what you came for (the search bar), and provided a grid to hold pictures and stories— intended to lead you away from your goal, and deeper and deeper into their site

Pinterest works on a similar principle. You go there looking for one thing… and spend hours finding other things instead!

Putting “white” to work

Odd are you will find both approaches useful at different times. For instance:

Let’s say you want your members to complete a volunteer sign-up for an upcoming event. Take a tip from Google. Provide them a page with no distractions. Keep them focused until they are done signing up. Then you can distract them. The same would apply to purchases. Keep them focused until they are done checking out.

With most other pages you can mimic Yahoo’s approach. Drive members to your site using information you know they are eager to get, then provide additional links to draw them deeper into your world.

Be wise with those links though!  Clutter cancels out the power of white space!  Make sure to keep your site tidy—and use your powers of good.

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