Loosen up, websites!

What do Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and CNN have in common? They’re filling my screen with white, blank voidness.

We, who build the web, have failed at creating interior design (read: web design) that match the exterior design and architecture of our properties (read: screens in various sizes).

In 2012, we might be on the right track to learn how to utilize small spaces on smartphones and tablets effectively, but we’re failing with the opposite: We are wasting all of that precious horizontal space on our websites, that empty void that you see ever so often on all your favorite web properties.

Now the thing is, wasted white space is doesn’t just look bad (except, of course, when white space is calculated as a design component) – it’s a lost opportunity to engage or present more, or better structured content to your audience, and for many, it is simply lost money (just ask Amazon).

Let me show you a few examples (all running against a simulated 1080p resolution – nothing to fancy):

Twitter is a pretty obvious example. Many argue that tweets looks better that way. I agree. But there’s no reason to not fill the additional content with personal conversations, suggestions or you-name-it. I didn’t even brainstorm.

This is even weirder. CNN is a news website. They need to work hard to get your attention and drive you across articles and parts of their website.

Let’s do a quick experiment and imagine how this would look like for a traditional newspaper. This:

..becomes this:

Probably getting painfully obvious now, eh?

Whenever I see a website with a similar layout, it keeps reminding me of tighly laced corsets. It hurts your website. Responsive layouts are buzzing, but often, people forget that they not only solve the issue of making their layouts work well at smaller-than-your-default resolution, but also larger-than-default ones.

But all hope is not lost. A few good companies out there, like the folks over at Smashing Magazine, know how to do it:

If you consider you or your company guilty (and I consider myself guilty: this blog resizes to a pretty decent size but has significant white space with 1920px), get rid of that tight corset please. Give your website room to breathe, and don’t make me scroll through endless narrow columns. Thank you!

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