Do you click on white space?

When landing on a web page, I sometimes click on a bit of spare white space before I do anything. It’s a sort of mental ‘reset’ for my mouse pointer, to reassure myself that the focus is on that window. I usually do it almost unconsciously, whilst beginning to attend to other things on the page.

But if that white space is clickable, I find myself accidentally activating things I didn’t know were there. I might be distracted with an unwanted popup, or worse, ushered off to a new page.

The new Google instant preview feature – the little magnifying glass that appears next to search results – is a case in point. Not only is the magnifying glass itself clickable, but so is a big chunk of white space next to it:

Google instant preview has clickable white space

My absent minded click on the white space suddenly causes an unexpected, distracting popup to appear:

Google - instant preview panel open

Of course, the Google example involves a trade-off. Fitts’ Law reminds us that big targets are good; forcing people to click precisely on the teeny magnifying glass would be a problem.

Maybe I’m the only weirdo in the world that clicks on white space. But in design, I think it’s worth considering the affordance of white space, and whether it should be clickable without clear warning.

1 comment to Do you click on white space?

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