In software design, particularly with apps where space is at a premium, it is often tempting to try and squeeze more content in. Developers often fear that leaving white space makes your user interface look empty. Most often, however, white space is not even considered. Designers focus on objects and the white space is merely what’s left over.
Ideally, design should balance the different content elements equally with the white space so that neither dominates the other. Careful planning of content and white space helps you achieve hierarchy in you app design. This is especially important in apps where a clear hierarchy will help your user find content quickly.
In more traditional publishing formats a grid system is employed to create balance between content and white space. This is a design concept originally developed by Josef Müller Brockman and colleageus who developed the Swiss style of graph design.
“ The grid system is an aid, not a guarantee. It permits a number of possible uses and each designer can look for a solution appropriate to his personal style. But one must learn how to use the grid; it is an art that requires practice.”
Responsive app design is a concept closely linked to good use of white space.It is a natural evolution of the grid system for modern technology. Elements of the grid can be used interchangeably to better accommodate different screen sizes and pixel densities. This concept is closely linked to modularity in web design.
To illustrate why responsive design is important it is perhaps pertinent to look at an example of where it is not employed.
Twitter on Android is possibly the worst example of this and a prime example of where Android tablet apps lag behind those on iPad. Here a phone app UI is simply stretched to fit a tablet. This leads to terrible use of white space and a generally horrible and empty user experience:
Compare this to the same screen on the iPad version with its modular responsive design and you can immediately see the importance of well planned white space:
I hope we have convinced you of the importance of well planned white space. Please leave any comments or questions below.