The reason a small handful of design principles and devices stand the test of time is that they’re broad and non-prescriptive, helping us solve an unlimited number of visual problems.
White space is one of them.
It’s been a long time since a client asked if I could “get rid of all that white space.” Even so, I was surprised recently when a government client asked for a lot of white space. I felt like a kid in a, well, linen store.
The average person is becoming more sophisticated about design, and, perhaps due to content overload, has arrived at what artists and designers have long known. That is, how crucial white space is to a reading or viewing experience. Far from being leftover or empty space, white space, at its best, is intentional, helpful and often dynamic. It’s active, not passive. In reality, white space is a beautiful paradox because in all its lacking of content, it makes us pay more attention to the content that is there.
• Frames images and text (and the notes in music in the form of silences) drawing attention to them.
• Creates contrast, a critical device that wakes us up and makes us pay attention.
• Separates like bits of information from other clusters of information, helping us focus on one thing at a time.
• Creates a breather, the space to absorb information more easily.
Flickr unleashed not only a new website, but a backlash. Change incites naysayers and you can’t please everyone, but this designer thinks Flickr went overboard.
The old Flickr design had too much white space of the leftover and non-intentional kind. And, thumbnails were too small, requiring the user to click through every one, which was slow going.
There’s no arguing the “wow” factor of a face full of pretty pictures. But think about the last time you strolled through a museum. The generous space between pieces of art was deliberate, framing and drawing your attention to the art in front of you. There was a chance to exhale before moving on to the next painting.
The new Flickr design sacrifices not only the ability to view an image and its related information, but it bombards you with all the images at once. Now, image trumps everything, overlooking how many users, including myself, use the site. Having tested a typical search I might do for a project, I can already see that load times for search results are much slower.
Pinterest, with its wall-to-wall content, has a lighter, less oppressive feel than Flickr, even though the general layout is the same. Images are large enough to see, you can focus more easily on a single image and you can find an image’s related information without scrolling.
What do you think of Flickr’s new design? Is it going to make it easier or harder for you to use?