The proper way to design an empty space in your app

App designers (and Apple), take note! Designer Craig Dennis has an excellent article on Codrops about designing empty space in your app. These are pages with no data, such as an empty mail inbox or a folder barren of any documents. Dennis argues that no empty space in an app should ever actually be "empty," or blank. There should always be something telling the user why the space is blank in order to avoid confusing the user, who might assume that a blank page means something has gone wrong, like the app has a bug or there is no Internet connection that can display the data.

Dennis slots necessary empty space in apps into three categories: first use (something should appear there, like a photo, but the user hasn't taken a picture yet), user cleared (all inbox emails read and deleted), and errors (web pages not loading). Leaving any of those pages blank gives the user no information.

Dennis says that adding a message that describes why the page is blank is essential. For example, an empty space in a first-used app should say "Once you take a photo it will appear here;" an empty used inbox should say, "No messages to display" (something Apple's Mail doesn't do); and an error page (such as an unloaded web page) should clearly state the cause of the error.

As Dennis says, "Pay attention to when users will see nothing, and give them something."