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In the good old days the key thing about displaying information on a screen was to provide such information in a compact, readable form
The reason we crammed everything on a screen in 'the good old days' was because of technical limitations, not because it was easy to use or inviting to use. Also, users usually had no alternatives, so how they felt in practice about it didn't matter.
We have some of these applications at my current client. They are horrible.
As for your example: I agree that that is bad UX. But it's not a good example of why whitespace is bad.
I couldn't agree more. User interfaces especially those of UK high street banks are appalling but nowhere near as poor as the UK government web sites. These have been designed to guide you through a process that you find it hard to circumvent.
It's almost like someone took a script / flowchart out of a book and tried to turn it into a web based menu driven system. When I access the site I want to see a log on and log out button somewhere near the top of the page, nope, all of this is hidden until they have determined what you "might need to do today". Then it's a matter of answering 4 or 5 questions with button clicks which take you from one page to the next. Almost as though someone thought, "hey we'd better keep the pages small but lets have loads of white space to make it look clean".
Shoddy beyond belief.
Probably designed by a cousin of the guy who designed the hospital laboratory information system screens that now require lots of page flips to do routine work because the others were "too busy" ... skilled knowledge workers like busy screens, naive ones not so much.
No one else tried to find what site he was talking about?
Both Fedex and UPS seem like fine
Without the reference, first thought sounds more like UI issue not UX (im one of the a-holes that try to seperate the two - look of interface vs how user engages with interface)
The abundance of white space might be a part of the transition away from the skeuomorphic designs. It takes time to figureout a balance and I think there is still wiplash effects of this change starting 10 years ago.
A comment made when I was doing my degree sticks with me. You got this big screen (might have been 800x600 or 1024×768) and all your doing is typing text. There is no need to have the application full screen.
So urks me when some devs have a notepad fullscreen while switching to a browser of some other application.
yeah, teenagers using psychedelic stuff in the weekend, then hit the commit button monday at work after quickly adjust the ui to match what they have experienced in their trip. you are the problem ! navigate to their site only when having some dmt stuff in your blood as well, and you'll be just fine