Visual hierarchy sounds complicated, but it’s not.
It refers to the idea that information on a page should have a clear sense of order. That order is imposed by you, the person who’s designing the page.
Why your reader needs to see visual hierarchy
When your reader first encounters your page of information, their initial impulse is to ask “Where do I start?”
You can make this clear by establishing the most important item on the page through design. It might be an image, a headline or a coupon. Whatever it is, make it larger, bolder and brighter than the rest of the page.
After that, their eyes will move around the page seeking what to look at next. Make it obvious by using the next-most-important image or text a little smaller. It shouldn’t call as much attention to itself as the main text or image.
Here’s an example of poor visual hierarchy. You aren’t sure what you should look at first! This ad is hard to read, right?
And finally, most pages have some necessary-but-not-crucial text or images. These may be disclaimers, footer text on a web page, or a map to an event.
These items should be smallest of all. You don’t want them to compete with your main image/text or your secondary image/text.
Here’s an example of good visual hierarchy. Your eye is led around the image, and you can take in most of the information at a glance.
When your page uses clear visual hierarchy, your information will be absorbed in the order in which you intended, and your reader will find it easy to understand.
Practice information discrimination
Get into the habit of stepping back and classifying your information before you start setting it up on your pages. Visual hierarchy may not come naturally at first, but the more you practice it, the easier it will be to use.
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