Something about Nothing
By: Teresa Mitchell, Wendy Ogryzek, June Bachman ~
At bWyse we get our inspiration from wherever we can. This month we were inspired by a scholarly paper titled “How Nothing Became Something: Whitespace, Rhetoric, History and Meaning” by Pracejus, Olsen & O’Guinn. It got us thinking.
We will now do our very best to teach you something about nothing as it relates to your website.
Without exception, our clients struggle with developing text and content for the initial launch of their websites. We won’t launch a site with phrases like “under construction” or “coming soon.” We take it live to the web when each page of a new website has client-supplied content uploaded to their site.
Commonly referred to as “negative space”, whitespace is the empty space between text and graphics. This void credits half of its name from the white paper that ads were historically printed on. Volkswagen, with the help of legendary ad agency Doyle Dane Bernbach went from selling 2000 units in 1953 to selling 150,000 in 1959 using whitespace as it’s primary communication tool in all of its advertising. The “Think Small” ad campaign is a legendary example of how whitespace builds trust in your product, adds to your credibility, increases the perceived value of your product or service and gives your customer’s eyes a place to rest. Viewers of your advertisement or site trust what they see because they feel the advertiser (that’s you) understands they can make an informed decision without being forced. A rest stop on the information highway, whitespace provides your viewers an opportunity to pause and concentrate on your message with minimal distraction.
Text and graphics are positive space -- space that is neither white, nor empty. It’s wholly appropriate for a discount retailer or a race promoter to have a website filled with positive space, lots of text and attention-grabbing graphics. Time-sensitive event schedules and businesses with broad inventory selection often require maximum use of positive space to appeal to diverse audiences; in effect, “Something for everyone right now!”
But what about the consultant, horse trainer, massage therapist, artist or boutique salsa maker? Their sites should provide a customer’s eyes a place to pause, rest, and take in confident, fully developed text that clearly informs people about the site’s service and what differentiates it from a similar business.
As a communication tool, whitespace encourages your customer to rest for a minute and take in the panoramic views while your website’s content, the text, engages them in a conversation about you, what you do, why they should trust you, what they can expect from you.
Start writing about who you are and what you do, and then read it out loud to yourself and anyone else who will listen. If you’re grinding gears when you read it, shift into neutral, give it a little new vocabulary until you find the right gear and begin to let out the clutch. Practice until you get it right, until you have something you’re proud of that you can balance with nothing (whitespace). Know anyone who learned to drive a stick in a Volkswagen? Took some practice, but it got easier. And more fun!
A Few Snappy Little Questions
Struggling with getting something into that whitespace in front of you? No worries. Ask yourself these questions:
- What makes me unique? Prove it!
- What makes my service unique?
- Why should clients trust me?
- Why have customers bought from me in the past?
- What’s new in my industry or field?
- What problems have I solved for my clients (or helped them avoid)?
Whitespace gives the eye a place to rest -- on a graphic or a succinct piece of text. It builds trust with your customers, encourages them to linger on your site and increases their perception of the value of your service or product. Whitespace is an effective marketing tool. Just ask Volkswagen.
That’s all, volks!