Negative Space in UI Design: Tips and Best Practices

Tubik Studio

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We often think that silence, emptiness or colorlessness is bad for us. We take them for granted without thinking that they are the solid foundation of the contrast. Only silence lets us know the value of the sound. Only empty space lets us understand what we want to fill it with. Only colorlessness lets us feel the colors brighter and deeper when they appear on stage. And only the absence of air lets us know how vital it is. Today we are talking about the air in design. Let’s discuss negative space.

What Is Negative Space in Design? Basically, negative space — or white space, as it’s often called — is the area of the layout which is left empty. It may be not only around the objects you place in the layout but also between and inside them. Negative space is a kind of breathing room for all the object on the page or screen. Not only does it define the limits of objects but also creates the necessary bonds between them according to Gestalt principles and builds up effective visual performance. Due to that, white space is a rightful design element that has a big impact on positive user experience. «White space is like a canvas: it’s the background that holds the elements together in a design, enabling them to stand out» — says Mads Soegaard from Interaction Design Foundation.

Negative space in graphic design is often seen in logos, on illustrations, posters and creative lettering where it becomes an active part of the visual presentation making key objects even more expressive. For example, in the blog illustration below we can see how the background element (moon) plays the role of contrasting negative space making the astronaut look more vivid and dynamic.

In UI design for websites and mobile apps, negative space is a big factor of high usability and navigability of the interface. The negative space around the layout elements is also called macro space whereas the space between them and inside (for letters and stroke elements) is also called micro space. For web design company visit Vivid Designs

What Is the Difference Between White Space and Negative Space? Short answer: no difference. These terms are fully interchangeable.

Why is this phenomenon called in two different terms? It’s easy to answer if you trace the origins. The term «white space» comes from print design since the times when pages were mostly white, so white space was everything around, between and inside the letters or symbols as well as around illustrations. Today, used in design, this term has nothing to do with white color: it’s all about empty space rather than color. The term «negative space» comes from photography: on a photo shot, they define positive space (objects attracting attention) and negative space (background).

What is important to remember that negative space in web design doesn’t have to be only white — you may use any color, texture, even pattern or background image.

Why Is Negative Space Important? Imagine yourself coming into a room fully packed with various staff. Shelves, boxes, bags, piles of books and clothes, the desk cluttered with various things. Will you be able to concentrate on such conditions? Do you really need all those things right now? Will you be able to find what you need and how much time will it take? Well, that’s pretty the same what users feel opening the page or screen without a vital air of negative space.

Both clients and some designers may want to put as many elements and features as possible on one page or screen thinking that it will save the game and will be helpful for clients. But that’s a mistake: in fact, users don’t need everything at once. Even more, too many elements without enough air significantly raise the level of distraction: overloaded with information and interactive elements most of which they DON’T need, users will have to take an effort to find what they DO need. As Aarron Walter mentioned, «if everything yells for your viewer’s attention, nothing is heard».

Among the benefits of a thoughtful approach to negative space in design, we could mention the following:

it supports scannability of the page it enhances visual hierarchy it makes the bonds between the elements visible and naturally perceived without additional means like tables, frames, arrows it provides enough air on the page so that it didn’t feel cluttered it sets user’s focus on core elements and reduces the level of distraction it adds style and elegance to the page. For example, let’s look on the landing page of Big City Guide. Here the designer applies a background photo and it plays the role of negative space on macro level. Even more, the elements of the photo and the lettering of the main copy element are interconnected: it makes negative space an active element of design and gives the page a united harmonic look.

Core Factors Influenced by Negative Space Using negative space properly may have a considerable impact on the following factors of user experience.

Readability and legibility If there’s not enough space between the elements, they become hard to read and demand additional effort. It may be a strong reason for eye and brain tense although many users won’t be able to formulate the problem. A proper amount of negative space, especially micro space, solves this problem and makes the process more natural. So, negative space directly influences the efficiency of typography on the page or screen. In music, pauses play the same role as sounds. In reading it works the same way: empty spaces placed correctly makes the text easier to read. For website development services in Chennai visit Vivid Designs

Branding If you check any logo guideline, you will find that designers define the appropriate amount of negative space around it so that it was perceived correctly. Breaking this rules is harmful to the visual performance.

Nature of the resource Negative space has an impact on the so-called design tone. For example, news resources will have less white space on the home page than blogs to set the mood and understanding that the platform is full of data which appears dynamically.

Attention ratio Enough negative space enhances visual hierarchy and allows users to focus on the key elements.

Based on that, negative space has an impact on visual perception in such aspects as:

copy content graphic content navigation identity. Let’s check a couple of examples. Here’s a home page for The Big Landscape. Without any visual frames and tables, due to the balanced use of negative space, the designer builds up the strong visual hierarchy and allows the user to scan various blocks of content in split seconds. This way design looks organized but light and airy. White background and layout arrangement make it look similar to a magazine page which harmonically informs the reader about the aims and nature of this online magazine.

Another example is a mobile application Upper app: here the negative space is all black, creating the great contrast to the core elements of the interface. For all the screen, only one straight line is used. Nevertheless, all the layout looks organized and highly readable due to enough air and no distractors. It also supports stylist minimalist elegance to favor aesthetic satisfaction.

Pitfalls to Consider 1. Confusing terminology. When you are talking to clients who may be not deeply familiar with design terms, make sure you explain the meaning of negative space before you describe the design solution. It may be hard for a non-designer to understand why «this screen needed more white space» looking at the totally black background as well as negative space may be associated with something bad — which it is not. So, don’t forget to dot all the i’s before using the terms.

2. Wish to reduce negative space to put more on page or screen. It happens not only in UI design: you may hear how an interior designer recommends saving some space to the client who wants 4 bookcases in one room instead of 2, or an architect explains why there is the need of empty space around the building to make it look and serve better. Even more, sometimes re-planning the elements with the better use of negative space creates the illusion of the room or building being bigger than it really is — and the same happens with data you have to put on a mobile screen or web page. Decide what’s more important, what’s secondary and what can be eliminated so that to navigate the user intuitively. Negative space will help to make the harmonic look of the screen or page even if it’s full of information and functions.

3. Poor prioritization. Negative space is not a cure-all if thought-out information architecture doesn’t stand behind an interface. Before you think about the design skin, you have to decide how a user will find the shortcut to his/her goal and solves his/her problem with an app or website. Plan this route before you make the looks presenting it in style; otherwise, even the best balance of visual elements including negative space won’t work effectively.

 

Building the user-centered web

What is a social network?

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I would like to reclaim some language:

Social is an adjective that means relating to human society and its members. A network is an interconnected system of things or people. Therefore, I’d suggest that we can define a social network as just being an interconnected system of people. The audience of this talk is a social network; so are your friends, colleagues, interest groups and so on. Social networking tools facilitate social networks. The universe of social tools certainly includes web applications with social functionality, but it also includes structured face to face interactions, telephone, post, SMS, email. In other words, the web is just one possible tool for this purpose — albeit a very effective one.

If you build it, they will come

You can’t install a social networking tool and instantly expect usage: Field of Dreams is not a good model for community development. The web is littered with ghost sites created using Ning, Elgg and more that have been established in the hope that a user-base will magically appear; however, if your main selling point is the social network itself, nobody’s going to join until that network of people exists and is actively using it. It’s a chicken-and-egg problem.

Therefore, you either need to have an existing network of people to facilitate interactions between (for example, when Facebook launched at Harvard) or compelling functionality that is useful without a network of existing users (for example, Delicious).

If we’re creating a tool that’s useful for the first user who signs up, without a pre-existing social network, then what we’re really talking is a software application that uses the web as an interface, and happens to have social functionality as one of its features.

The web as applications

When the web was conceived, it consisted of documents and pages linked with hypertext: linked words and phrases that, when clicked, would load another, relevant document. Each page had its own Uniform Resource Locator, which allowed you to return to that specific page at any time. Each page could be a destination in itself, and although the sites (collections of pages) could be linked together through hypertext, each one had no need to know about your activities elsewhere on the web. Why would they? Documents don’t have memory; their role is simply to impart information. For Top web design company visit Vivid Designs

Step forward to today, and the web is not entirely made of pages: applications now represent a large amount of the web. (Princeton WordNet defines an application as “a program that gives a computer instructions that provide the user with tools to accomplish a task”; Google Docs, Remember The Milk, Flickr, Delicious etc are all applications by this definition.)

The benefits are tangible: you can access an application’s functionality from any web-compatible device, anywhere in the world. You’re no longer bound to the software you happen to have installed on a particular machine, and you no longer need to worry about whether you’ve remembered to save a particular file onto a particular drive. Because of historic resource limitations, web applications tend to be easier to use, and entirely bypass the need for IT departments, which have unfortunately earned a reputation for being obstacles to productivity in many organizations.

This change of web usage has been reflected in the ongoing development of HTML, the markup language that all web interfaces are written in. The first four versions were largely orientated towards documents; however, HTML 5, currently in development, is the first version that explicitly contains functionality to support web applications. That includes offline storage and usage, sessions, and more advanced interface features. However, aspects of the document-orientated model remain.

Silos of information

Each application is its own atomic destination with its own URL, and is by default only aware of data created within it. That means we need to register for each application we want to use, fragmenting our accounts over potentially hundreds of products and company data centers, and that the documents, files and data we create within them can’t easily be shared with other applications. On my desktop, I can write a document in Word and open it in OpenOffice, or take a Paint doodle and load it in Photoshop, but there’s no easy, generic way to take my bookmarks from Delicious into another bookmarking tool, or to take my Google Docs and open them in Acrobat.com.

Currently, each web application is like a silo: they exist on their own, and if they interoperate at all, it’s through specific links between applications that have to be individually developed. Certainly, data created in an application stays in that application; sometimes you can check your GMail address book for contacts in order to find existing friends on a service you’ve just signed up to, for example, but it’s rare that you can actually export data fully into another product. As many of these services are free, a significant portion of their business models revolve around being able to control user-contributed data, keep users coming back, and sell user-generated activity data for marketing purposes. (One has to question whether the market for personal details will continue to be profitable, or whether, like the web advertising market before it, it will saturate and crash.)

In a social networking tool, the site model means that your contacts, the information you share and any detailed access permissions all relate solely to the application they were created in. However, collaborative spaces in social web applications are like documents: they’re one of the currencies of the social web. Just as I need to be able to use my wordprocessor of choice to edit a document, I need to be able to use my social tool of choice to collaborate with others.

Turning the model upside down

Right now, we have to register with each application we want to use. What if we required each application we used to register with us, in digital identities under our own control?

What if, using these identities, anyone could connect to anyone else, and anyone could store their data anywhere as long as the storage provider followed the same broad standards?

The web itself would become a social networking tool.

This is far more flexible, and future-proof:

Your ability to collaborate is not subject to a single company’s success: social functionality and application infrastructure are inherent in the web itself The possibilities for collaboration are not subject to technology beyond common open standards, which can evolve A wider range of application possibilities is ensured, because web applications gain the ability to interoperate in a general way Privacy and user control are established by allowing a person to determine which application has access to which data By establishing a general standard for social application interactions, the services and technologies used to make connections become less relevant; the Internet is people, one big social network, and users no longer have to worry about how they connect. We can all get on with communicating and collaborating rather than worrying about where we connect. For Web designing  services in New Delhi visit vivid Designs

User-centered identities

Under this model, providing the software that hosts your digital identity becomes big business. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the main service providers, and they’re already fiercely competing to be your identity on the web:

Facebook wants your central identity to be a Facebook account (and arguably have made the user-centric model for the web part of their strategy for a very long time) Google wants it to be a Google account Twitter wants it to be a Twitter account Microsoft wants it to be a Live ID OpenID want it to be any OpenID-capable URL Because I use all of these services, the result is a very complicated identity space. These are a subset of my profiles:

For identities to be usable as a generic standard, you should be able to use any of these — or all of them. Nobody has just one facet (or persona) comprising their identity; everyone has a collection, representing the different parts of their lives. Ben Werdmuller the web strategist for hire doesn’t need to be connected to Ben Werdmuller the Doctor Who fan, who in turn doesn’t need to be connected to the Oxford resident. They can be connected if I choose to make them, but separating parts of your life is part of a user’s control over their identity.

However, that needs to be context-specific, not application-specific. Currently, for example, my Facebook account tends to be personal, while my Twitter tends to be professional. That doesn’t make sense: in order to write personally on Twitter, I either have to accept the collision of those two parts of my life, or I need to create an entirely separate, fragmented Twitter account. Wouldn’t it be better to be able to control who sees which interactions, and choose tools based on the functionality they add to a conversation? Otherwise you have the situation I present above: one identity per communication context per application. That will quickly become unmanageable, and the web will be littered with dead profiles.

Conversely, I believe the future of the web is in atomic digital identities based on permissive, open standards, linked together as an application framework.

How do we make this work?

Problem to solve: user control

First and foremost, the framework for decentralization must be established — in other words, the actual social mesh standards that will make it possible.

Technical mechanisms need to be established for controlling access to a resource or collaborative space, which should be easy to use without removing any of the flexibility of the platform, and should allow for the maintenance of multiple personas.

Another part of access control is allowing a resource to expire gracefully. It’s important to know when to lose data: sometimes documents, resources, spaces, personas or entire identities may be transient and only required for a certain length of time. There’s no need for everything on the web to exist indefinitely; currently, rigorous indexes like Google ensure that much of it does.

Finally, the tools and standards we create must be permissive of goals, content and structure that we might not have thought of. There certainly doesn’t need to be an overarching structure or taxonomy between individual identity spaces, and constraining the technology to a rigid set of activities and data types would limit the scope of the platform.

Problem to solve: ownership

Existing web applications tend to have a single-ownership model for resources. However, Silona Bonewald rightly pointed out to me that this isn’t always the case, and in a free-flowing social mesh, multiple ownership needs to be represented. For example, all collaborators on a resource should have ownership access, unless they explicitly choose to rescind that right.

In a company environment, a user’s employer may have shared ownership (or full ownership, with author access available to the employee). The same may be true with students in a university environment. On sites like Facebook, the service owner may in reality have some ownership rights over the content.

How can we maintain this granularity, but also retain user control?

Problem to solve: privacy & transparency

There is a very public attitude of “when you put something online, it’s published” in some parts of the software development community, which is a useful concept that gives developers carte blanche to share data freely. In a fully user-controlled environment, this public-or-completely-private binary situation can no longer be the case; a resource may have been published to a few select people. Ignoring this trait disallows the platform’s use in important environments like enterprises or public bodies.

When you sign up to a service, you agree to that service’s terms and conditions and privacy policy. However, your data may be farmed out to a collection of other, secondary services via APIs, without your knowledge or consent.

An important aspect of user control is knowing how your data is used and where it is transmitted by the applications you use, so I propose a simple, human-identifiable and machine-readable mark that:

Applies permissions to how my data can be used by applications (like Creative Commons does for shared content) Tells you in a visual way what happens to your data when you visit a site Incorporates multi-ownership It may be that these issues are addressed within the terms and conditions of a service. However, it’s very unlikely that a user will actually read the full contract. Therefore, a simple graphic icon with a link to a plain-English description, with an underlying microformat for machine-readable use, would be a welcome addition to the user experience. As the web becomes more mesh-like and data moves around more freely, conveying what happens to data owned by less-technical end users will become more and more important.

Problem to solve: platform

Finally, while it’s great having a conversation about this, these ideas aren’t useful to anyone unless someone goes ahead and builds it.

There are some existing projects and thinkers who are on these tracks:

The Diso Project is turning the WordPress open source blogging tool into a decentralized digital identity through an array of open standards, and the project’s Chris Messina has a lot of wise things to say about its development. Laconi.ca is a decentralized microblogging platform, whose Open Microblogging standard may be adaptable into a more widely-scoped technology. The Open Stack is a set of developing technologies that address some of the issues. Marc Canter’s Open Mesh treatise goes into detail on many of the issues. All of these are important contributions that strongly address some of the issues; however, we’re still a long way away from the vision of an open, social web.

Conclusion

I believe strongly, for the reasons stated above, that a decentralized, user-centered model for the web is the best way to advance it as an application platform.

Needless to say, I have my own ideas about how to actually build the platform, based on my Making the most of the web principles. However, it has to be a collaborative process: there’s no sense in building an open collaborative standard by yourself. My main concern is that the platform is created and works in an open, lightweight, flexible, easy-to-develop-for way while remaining secure and yielding control to the main user. The result will be an entirely new kind of platform, and presents a unique opportunity for anyone who wants to jump on board.

Source

Service Oriented Architecture

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Application development has come a long way from developing inter-dependent components that serve the cause of a single application to building several independent modules, extending interfaces that can be called by any client, which communicate using asynchronous messaging protocols. Service oriented architecture constitutes of latter components.

Service oriented architecture or SOA essentially consists of various services that communicate with each other, usually in asynchronous fashion. These services are not bound to any particular language or technology and can be implemented by various means. They either communicate using exposed interfaces or some messaging model.

Some of the earliest acquaintances with SOA were using technologies like DCOM and CORBA. DCOM or Distributed Component Object Model was designed for use across multiple network transports. It is based on RPC or Remote Procedure Call and primarily works on Microsoft Windows. CORBA or Common Object Request Broker Architecture was developed keeping inter-operability in mind. A CORBA-based program from any vendor, on almost any computer, operating system, programming language and network can interoperate with another CORBA-based program from any vendor on any computer, operating system, programming language and network. For Web development company visit Vivid Designs

These technologies, however, haven’t been very popular with vendors for SOA-based applications because of their complexities and inefficient platform support. This is where Web Services comes into picture.

Web Services is an industry standard interface and connectivity technology. WSDL or Web Services Description Language, the interface description language used by Web Services, is self-describing and SOAP or Simple Object Access Protocol, its messaging protocol, is based on XML data interchange. It has fulfilled the long-awaited wish of enterprise application developers by truly separating the interface from the implementation and, because of its widespread adoption over the years, has become synonymous with service-oriented architecture. Its simplicity, openness and wide-spread use has changed the landscape of Enterprise Application Integration giving traditional EAI companies a run for their money. For Web development company in Mumbai visit Vivid Designs

Many companies all over the world are phasing their existing applications to service oriented architecture to make their business applications accessible to the clients and business partners, and to improve information sharing.

SOA has changed the way enterprise applications are built, with the lines between application development and application integration gradually fading.

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