In web design, “rivers of white” typically refers to uneven and distracting gaps or rivers of white space that unintentionally form in the text blocks due to the layout or typography choices. These rivers disrupt the visual flow of the text, making it harder to read and potentially affecting the overall aesthetics of the page.

The term is often used to describe a phenomenon in which the spaces between words or lines create unintentional patterns that resemble flowing rivers of white space. This issue is particularly noticeable in justified text layouts where the spaces between words are adjusted to create straight margins on both sides of the text block.

Here are a few factors that can contribute to the formation of rivers of white in web design:

  1. Justified Text: While justified text may create a clean and formal appearance, it can lead to uneven spacing and rivers of white. This is because the spaces between words are adjusted to align with both the left and right margins.
  2. Font and Line Length: Certain combinations of font choices and line lengths can increase the likelihood of rivers of white. Longer lines of text and specific letter combinations may result in uneven spacing.
  3. Whitespace Handling: In some cases, the way browsers handle whitespace in the HTML code can contribute to the formation of rivers. This is especially true if you don’t apply specific styling to control the text layout.

To minimize or eliminate rivers of white in web design, opt for left-aligned text. Additionally, choosing fonts and line lengths carefully and incorporating proper CSS styling can help create a more visually appealing, WCAG-compliant, accessible, and readable text layout.

It’s essential to balance the desire for a clean design with the need for optimal readability and user experience.


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