Designing with "White" Space

Some of today's hottest new trends are touch screens. iPods have touch screens, blackberries have touch screens, android has touch screens, and various other phones and devices have touch screens. 

Just like regular screens, touch screens need some way of navigating, selecting and scrolling. Scrolling could be done via an ugly scroll bar that is bulky to be used by a finger, or tiny to be used by a pen. This is ugly and serves limited purpose. In order to combat touch scrolling and navigating and moving around, many phones have adapted gestures. Swipe your finger left to right to turn pages or move across pages. Swipe it downwards to scroll. Pinch to zoom in and out. These are all really nice. However there is one problem. Somewhere you need to start. While you are touching to start the gesture, you don't want to click any button. Interfaces that are clean, and have plenty of white space work perfectly. Users get to place their finger somewhere, with no worry of accidentally clicking, and then perform their gesture. 

On Windows Mobile 6.1 (6.5 does look very promising) there is very empty little space. In some interfaces it becomes incredibly difficult to figure out where you can start your gesture. Windows Mobile also has the issue of not having a clear definition of the button. A lot of the targets are fancy icons, icons that have no clear border. Personally, I feel my finger is outside the button, however the program does not.  On iPhone and iPods this white space is still rather scarce. There is space at the bottom and the sides. While not much more empty space compared to windows, here there is a clear definition of the buttons. Each icon has a very easily noticed border. I know where I can and cannot stray. 

Obviously "white" space is important in the main interface of mobile devices. They help us use the navigation and tools of the phone. However this concept still applies to web pages and other programs you do. If your entire web site is a mass of buttons, stuff, and links, when i go to it on my touch screen i have a problem. There is nowhere for me to start my gestures. If i try to zoom in and out of the webpage i cant without clicking something. 

This argument is completely from a usability perspective. There are enough people far better at designing aesthetically pleasing interfaces who can tell you the importance of white space. It provides for a break for the eyes, separates content, relieves cognitive load, allows the user to concentrate on the content and many other advantages. Design is a very tricky thing, when it comes to new interfaces it gets even more complicated.

"Design like you give a damn"
-TED Conference

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