Why Whitespace is Sexy

It might surprise some of my clients to know that I don't have any formal training as a web designer. You see, I'm kind of old in Internet years, and back when I started designing web pages and sites, there were no classes. Or teachers. Or experts. There was barely a commercial Internet in those days, and to access it you usually had to listen to something like this. We didn't have any of the rules or tools we do today to help make websites usable, fun or easy. We learned by trial and error what made for a great web design, and most importantly, what made a site that users would spend some time with.

There is one lesson that I learned back then that has stuck with me all these years:

If it's not usable, they won't use it, no matter what.

But I want a pretty website...

Of course you want a pretty website, we all do. But in the pursuit of a sexy site presentation, you also have a goal (or at least you should) to sell your product or service and promote your company. While a "pretty" website will certainly help with that goal by drawing visitor interest, if you are more focused on the "pretty" than the "usable", you will quickly lose the visitor's attention and never achieve your desired long-term results.

Don't get me wrong, I detest ugly websites. I truly believe that an ugly website can hurt your brand as much as a pretty site can boost it. But I also know that "pretty" sites sometimes take more care in the presentation of eye candy than they do in the calls to action needed to drive leads, traffic or brand loyalty. If your website isn't usable, your visitors will never get to know your company or brand for what it is really about, which is far more than pretty pictures.

What makes a site usable...

How do you fix a site that has usability problems? There are three main areas where I see sites fail in usability design:

  • Content
  • User Scanning
  • Navigation

Content

Website visitors don't sit to read your site like they would a book. No matter how complex the product or service offering, your web content needs to be concise. It's perfectly fine to link to blog posts, white papers and deeper research to give full explanations (even better, have them register for it!), but keep the standard content page as clean as you can and use as few words as possible.

User Scanning

Eye tracking studies demonstrate that website visitors do not read in the same manner online as they would in print. They scan the page, usually in an F-shape pattern for text pages. By using strategically designed headings, as well as elements like bulleted lists, paragraph breaks and images that draw the visitor's attention, you allow the visitor to view the content that is most important and relevant to their needs.

Most importantly, allow your visitor's eyes to "rest" by providing clear areas where there is nothing they are forced to concentrate on.

Navigation

Visitors shouldn't have to wonder where a link will take them, or if something is a link at all! Clear paths to subordinate pages (and back to top-level pages) are the only way to encourage visitors to surf the site without fear that they can get back to where the came from easily. Your navigation shouldn't be crowded or hidden, but should be obvious and easy to click, regardless of the device your visitor is using (desktop, tablet or mobile phone).

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE WHITESPACE...

All of these design issues have one common element... whitespace. Content that is slim and clean, a design that is scannable and navigation that is not crowded or lost... they all come down to a design that embraces whitespace as a design element.

By focusing on these three areas, by allowing whitespace to have a place in your website's design, most sites (whether pretty or ugly) can see a dramatic change in their ability to convert visitors to leads. A website that converts, after all, is the sexiest site of them all.

Does your website need help with its presentation or lead generation? Contact me about a private consultation to evaluate your site and increase its performance for your business.