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In terms of web design, there is a very specific amount of space between elements that make an interface look nice. Too little space and things look cramped, but too much and they look __. Words like spacious and open usually have positive connotations. I'm looking for a word to describe how something looks when there's too much empty space.

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Some of the following terms may apply directly; others are no more than figurative. Most of these words are adjectives rather than adverbs.

isolated (“Placed or standing apart or alone; in isolation”), eg: “The page elements are overly isolated.”
empty (“Devoid of content; containing nothing or nobody; vacant”), eg: “The page looks too empty.”
barren (“bleak”),
deserted (“desolate”),
gaping (“Wide open”),
cavernous (“resembling a cavern; vast”),
skimpy (“Small or inadequate; not generous”), eg: “The content is skimpy.”
thin, eg: “The content is rather thin on the ground.”

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These are words I have used to critique websites with the same issue you have described:

  • Disconnected
  • Lost
  • Floating
  • Uncoordinated
  • Fractured
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I migt also add: insignificant – Jim Nov 7 '12 at 7:09

Sprawling - Spread out over a large area in an untidy or irregular way.

It's often used of constructions/settlements - built over a wide area in a way that is ugly or not carefully planned. a sprawling city. But you can build a website, so I don't see why a "loose" layout shouldn't be sprawling.

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  • sparse - Occurring, growing, or settled at widely spaced intervals; not thick or dense.

  • scanty - (1) Barely sufficient or adequate. (2) Insufficient, as in extent or degree.


  1. The place was sparse. It felt cold and empty.
  2. The design was austere and scanty.
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I think you're wanting to make a critique about the website's use of whitespace in composition. Likely there would be other compositional problems such as layout and navigational issues. In art as in typography one squints to look at the piece to establish the overall tone (heavy/medium/light) of the layout to judge use of whitespace. You can use a suitably set blur filter instead of squinting. UX stackexchange forum members can advise further. Layout alignment of elements and the shape of the entire design also come under scrutiny, these things play just as important a role in human eyes scanning the website and making sense of it. Hope this answer is not unhelpful as I'm trying to impress that a single word, sprawling for example's sake, is not in itself a useful ejudicator. Saying instead something more concrete is preferrable (with evidence to prove it) that a website is too spacious for comfortable reading/understanding or navigation etc. Otherwise your assessment is as subjective as the next persons. Sparse, disconnected, disjointed, uncontained, too light (composition), bloated, unfocused, untamed, the list goes on, with various emotional spin attached.

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This looks more like comment/extended discussion than an answer to me. – FumbleFingers Nov 7 '12 at 21:02
@FumbleFingers The last sentence contains the crude words as requested in the question. – Chris Nov 7 '12 at 23:08
Sorry - I never got that far! I only managed to read the last sentence this time by skipping straight to it after I got sidetracked looking up ejudicator halfway through. But yeah, you're right. These kind of "single-word requests" rarely have a single inarguably valid answer. – FumbleFingers Nov 8 '12 at 1:25

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