Visual hierarchy is about organising the value of the elements within your design. By ranking information from most important to least important, you make it easier for the viewer to digest your content.
This plays a critical role in UI and UX design. Ever noticed how most landing pages have the same layout? There’s a logo at the top, a menu at the top and then elements in descending order of importance below.
It’s not because they copied each other's homework—there’s a certain hierarchy that designers stick to in order to draw attention to the right things in the right order (and make it pretty to look at.)
The viewer’s eye should be drawn to the most important element first. These sit atop the throne at the top of the hierarchy, with the elements laid out below ranked in order of importance.
There are a number of visual tricks to influence this flow, including:
Size and scale: The larger an element is the more likely a viewer is to see it. By making something smaller you can reduce its importance and put the emphasis elsewhere.Colour and contrast: A splash of colour makes a big difference. Use bright colours to make certain elements or information pop.Fonts: Use different typefaces and stylisations like italics and bold to draw the eye and move text higher or lower on the hierarchy.White space: White space enables you to give an element breathing room and make a central element stand out.
Patterns of hierarchy
People read a page in the same way: from top to bottom. But we don’t just stare blankly at s page and wait for information to register, we scan it.
The human eye tends to follow the same path during this process. For that reason, designers stick to two common patterns to make it faster to absorb information: the F-pattern and the Z-pattern.
The F-pattern applies to pages made up mostly of text, like an online or printed article. Readers scan in the shape of an “F”—first, with the headline across the top, then down the left side of the page and to the right as they identify things they find interesting.
Designers use a Z-pattern for layouts with less text and more visuals. With this pattern, viewers scan across the top of the page and then diagonally down towards the opposite corner. They then scan the bottom in the same way as the top.
Most websites are designed in this way (including Paperform). Notice how the most important parts like the logo and navigation menu are at the top, while the secondary information like clients and chatbot is at the bottom.