Visual Communication — Part 7

Use plenty of “white space.”
It’s cheap… and it pays!

John CounselBy John Counsel — The Marketing Doctor

White space refers to space on a page that has nothing in it. Things like wide margins and space between paragraphs. (And NO heavily patterned backgrounds or too much light-coloured type on dark backgrounds.)

There are three simple solutions to this that will make a tremendous difference, not just to the appearance of your pages, but to making it easier to keep your visitors reading.

1. The <BLOCKQUOTE> and </BLOCKQUOTE> commands

When you use these HTML commands, everything in between them (type, images, tables) is indented by about 50 pixels, left and right. No more type running from edge to edge. Just neat margins on either side of the page, regardless of browser width.

Try adjusting the width of your browser window and watch what happens to this page. No matter how narrow or wide you make it, the text retains its left and right margins.

2. Format Commands

These include the Description, Bullets, Numbers, Address, Term and Preformatted commands. Combine them with the BLOCKQUOTE command to provide visual interest and order to your page layout. I’ve used these commands throughout these pages.

3. Use plenty of subheads

This has two big benefits:
 

  1. It breaks up the text into manageable bites, just like a meal. Think of your site as a smorgasbord banquet. Each page is a different course. Nobody wants to have to digest an entire dish in one go. But neither do we start at one edge of the plate and nibble our way to the other side. We eat one small mouthful at a time, savouring it before taking another.
     
  2. Subheads should give visitors a quick overview of the content, especially those who scan quickly before deciding whether to stay or not.
Give your subheads plenty of thought. They’re really miniature ads for the text that follows. You have to “sell” your reader, over and over again, if you want to make it easier for them to stay than to leave.

4. Short paragraphs

By breaking up the text within each sub-section of your page, you make it easier on the eye, and you won’t give your visitors visual and mental indigestion.

We try to keep paragraphs to between two and five sentences, but there are no hard-and-fast rules. Sometimes a single sentence – perhaps only a few words – can make an effective impact on the reader.

Just like this.

Or this.

Next… The Laws of Visual Gravity