Mike Markel's Web Design Tutorial
SECTION 2A: Use Sufficient White Space
Sometimes called negative space or blank space, white space is the area of the paper with no writing or graphics. The arrangement of white space, text, and graphics on a page motivates readers to continue-or to stop. For example, readers are likely to avoid reading a page with blocks of text, narrow margins, small type, tight leading, and little white space. But readers are more motivated to read documents with generous margins, extra space between lines, and plenty of white space surrounding headings and graphics. By consciously including white space in your documents, you can accomplish the following:
  • Give readers brief mental breaks as they read.

  • Signal the end of one section and the beginning of another.

  • Emphasize and set off an element on the page.

  • Make documents more interesting to read.
The design of this page from a manual makes poor use of white space. Tightly spaced lines and paragraphs stacked atop each other give the page a dense, uninviting feel. Surrounded by text, the graphic lacks a strong visual definition. Similarly, the headings lack emphasis. Finally, the equal space between paragraphs and the section heading fails to signal the beginning of a new section.


In this revised example, the increased space between lines and paragraphs gives this page a less impenetrable look. In addition, using more space between sections than within sections helps readers recognize the beginning of a new section. A larger type size and a sans serif typeface (a typeface without short extensions on the letters) also make the section title more visually distinct. Likewise, the outdented headings (headings that protrude beyond the left margin of the body text) make the page easier to navigate. Surrounding the graphic with a generous amount of white space gives it emphasis and signals to readers that it is important.



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