Importance Of Visual Hierarchy In Website Design (And How To Achieve It)

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by Graphicszoo 15+ days ago 5 mins read

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If you are a professional designer, you must have heard a lot from your clients to “make the logo bigger”. That’s speaks volumes about the importance of visual hierarchy in website design. 

Although content is still the king, no one wants to read anything on a poorly designed website.A website’s layout is crucial in making sure that your content is received well. 

Every website owner must take note of the flow of information, layout, graphics, and structure of their site. By doing so, you ease readers into the information on offer without overwhelming them; thereby keeping interested to continue reading.

Most users understand and expect to see certain elements in certain places on a website. 

For example, your logo typically resides in the same place on all pages of your site, often in the upper-left corner. It serves two functions up there. First, people will know that they’re on your site, which reinforces your brand. Second, it acts as a button to get back to the homepage from anywhere on the site. 

These are just a few of the many reasons which establish the importance of visual hierarchy in website design. Let’s discuss some more prominent benefits of visual hierarchy in this blog.

But, first, a quick definition of visual hierarchy. 

What is visual hierarchy?

In the simplest terms, a visual hierarchy is the organization and prioritization of content (including images and graphics) as a way to communicate a specific idea, thought, or message.

When it comes to setting the visual hierarchy, designers have to keep in mind the following crucial questions;

  • Where should the audience look first?
  • What’s the most important piece of information on this page?
  • What’s the best way to move the audience down the page?
  • Where’s the best place for a call-to-action?
  • What image or graphic will communicate the message best?

By laying out elements logically and strategically, designers influence users’ perceptions and guide them to desired actions.

Visual hierarchy can, very well, be described as the difference between a site that strategically influences user flow and decisions and a site that just “looks nice”. 

As one of the most important principles behind good web design, it refers to the order in which the human eye perceives what it sees.

So, how do you establish a visual hierarchy in website design?

As explained earlier in this article, visual hierarchy is the process of setting a reading pattern for the website visitors in a way that they are able to consume the content information with ease. 

Keeping this in mind, here are the following elements to keep in mind in order to establish the correct visual hierarchy in website design. 

Size

Remember the “make the logo bigger” comment mentioned in the beginning of this article? Well, that’s the most prominent example we can use to explain this point. 

Size is possibly the easiest design hierarchy elements to understand. If something is bigger, then it must be more important, right?

Our eyes are automatically drawn to larger text, images, and graphics. If you’re reading a sentence comprising of 12 words and suddenly you come across 2 words which are bolder and bigger in font size then it definitely gets the readers’ attention. 

This can be seen commonly for calls-to-action buttons. Of course, that’s not to say that it’s as simple as making your “DOWNLOAD NOW” call-to-action 10x larger for more conversions. Subtlety and harmony between elements is the key.


 

Shape

This is another design element that helps setting a visual hierarchy in website design. 

While, all the graphics in your design may follow a consistent pattern, adding or placing an icon, illustration, or graph, which is different in shape than the rest, will get the attention of the users for sure. 

People gravitate towards the irregular shape in any design. 

For example, if your testimonial page features client reviews in a cloud bubble shape barring one particular review which is placed in a square frame, then visitors to your web page will take note of that one particular customer review first. 


 

Placement

There are, predominantly, two basic reading patterns for cultures who read from left to right;

  • F/E pattern
  • Z pattern

The first reading pattern is largely seen for text-heavy websites like blogs. Users, start with scanning a vertical line down the left side of the text, looking for keywords or points of interest in a paragraph’s initial sentences. When the reader finds something they like, they begin reading normally, forming horizontal lines. 

The end result is something that looks like the letters F or E.

F-Pattern Scanning Pattern

On the other hand, the Z-pattern scanning occurs on pages that are not focused on the text. 

As the name suggests, if you were to access a Z-Pattern website, your eyes would wander horizontally over the top; possibly drawn to the menu bar at first or simply because you’re used to reading from left-to-right. 

Once you reach the end, your attention shifts down and left (again based on reading habit), and repeats a horizontal search on the lower part of the page.

https://2stallions.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/zlayout.jpg

Based on these two main reading patterns, you need to decide where you want to place the most important content on your web page design. 

While you’ll probably focus primarily on the center of the screen (given its size and contrasting black lines), the stagnant clickable links remain easily accessible in the corner and at the bottom. Scrolling up and down changes what’s displayed in the middle. However, the site logo, hamburger menu, contact information, and social media links stay firmly in their prime locations.



 

Color

Color is one of the basic elements of graphic design and, therefore, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see it as a significant element playing its role in establishing visual hierarchy. 

When it comes to color in visual hierarchy, bright, bold colors stand out. Light tints will push content (including images and graphics) to the background while richer, darker tints will bring that same content forward.

As readers, we’re visually drawn to color, especially when it’s used strategically to highlight important information or imagery. A bright splash of a color like red or yellow, for example, is hard to miss — whether it’s on a traffic sign on the side of the road, or a flyer hanging in your local coffee shop. 

Clever use of color can be one of the most visually interesting ways to differentiate elements on a page and draw attention where you want it. 


 

To conclude…

When you don’t follow a proper visual hierarchy in website design, it leaves your website visitors confused and uninformed. The viewer tries to take in all of the content at the same level of importance and leaves confused, without actually digesting much or any information. 

Therefore, it is important that you diligently work on the visual hierarchy aspect of your UX/UI design as well. 

For more information and help on how to establish the right visual hierarchy in your website’s design, speak to our advisors today at support@graphicszoo.com