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What's happening in the world of digital learning?

  • Kristen Featherstone

Elearning Design: White Space - Too Much or Too Little?

Updated: Dec 3, 2020

White space.

Too much or too little, that is the question.

Too much white space - the story

While working on a project that was in its final stages of testing, a client began making comments about the amount of white space in the course. After designing quite a few courses for this particular client, and completing several review cycles, we were a bit baffled as to the late stage of these comments. So we began to review the course again, paying particular attention to the white space.

Post-review, we were still at a loss as to what the problem was, so asked the client to send us a screenshot of what they were seeing.

What transpired was that the course was being launched from their LMS full screen, instead of the same size as the pages in the course. You can see a mockup page in the above image that shows you something similar. So the white space the client was seeing wasn’t actually part of the course that we had designed; rather the issue was a lack of understanding of the LMS, which was easily rectified.

But what is white space?

So all this provoked discussion about white space, and how we use it in design. White space is a term we come across a lot in elearning circles and it refers to the amount of space that is left on the page after you have filled it with text, images, buttons, banners, logos etc.

White space becomes more apparent as the pages in the course become populated. Pages can end up with a cluttered look, making the learning difficult, or they can look so sparse the existence of a particular page is called into question.

White space is not just about the amount of objects on the page but also refers to page layouts, text font, size and spacing, margins and the amount of space given over to the look and feel of your course.

So why is white space important?

A poor balance of white space could mean a difficult, hard to read page or one that has the appearance of being half finished. A well designed page sits between these two extremes but can be difficult to perfect.

How do I know if I have too much or too little?

Well that’s the million dollar question. There is no set formula for the amount of white space on a page. It will partly depend on whether you are producing printed material or pages for the web.

If you are producing for the web there are many different page types, so you might be creating a website, a blog, a shop etc. Each of these will have a specific focus on what they are trying to achieve and so the amount of white space will vary.

There are some phrases that are used like ‘keep it simple’ and ‘less is more’, implying that more white space is preferable, but it is the balance of objects vs white space that is the key. The images below give you an idea of too little, and then too much.

After working for different clients you begin to realise that everyone actually has their own opinion about white space. So the more experience you have in designing pages, the better the feel you will have for ‘too much’ or ‘too little’.

These final images are 2 pages in a course we designed, which show a good balance of white space.

As you can see, in this second example we used a faded background image. Without it, there would have been too much white space on the page, but if it was full colour it would distract from the words; which is what the learner actually needs to focus on here. By fading the image, we have avoided the issue of too much white space, while still keeping the page clean and uncluttered.

For any more on white space or page design, get in touch!

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