7 Golden Rules to Create Visual Hierarchy on Your Website

After reading this title, you might be asking yourself, “What is visual hierarchy?” In its simplest form, visual hierarchy is how you can set up something to trick the eye. Are you still confused? Let me explain further.

7 Golden Rules to Create Visual Hierarchy on Your Website
7 Golden Rules to Create Visual Hierarchy on Your Website

Visual hierarchy is the principle of the arrangement of the elements of design to lead the viewer’s eye from the most important element to the least. Using visual hierarchy will help you keep your website visitors’ attention and guide them through the story that you’ve created for them with your content. Your brain only needs 50 milliseconds to make a first impression. The visual hierarchy will help you not to waste that time.

Table of contents

Use colors to redirect your visitor’s attention
Adjust size for emphasis
Highlight important content based on the F and Z eye patterns
Show contrasts and UI overlaps for better UX
Negative space for positive results
Typeface
Using the Golden Ratio to your advantage
Your elements should work together

If you want to use this technique on your website efficiently, you have to make sure your website follows the 7 golden rules to create visual hierarchy. These are the points you’ll need to consider in order for you to influence your visitors’ perception of your website.

Use colors to redirect your visitor’s attention

The color pattern of your website is a highly potent visual element. With proper execution of the usage of colors on your website, you can draw viewers’ attention to the elements that you want them to notice first.

Within that 50 milliseconds, you can offer a vivid view of what your website is all about. Not only will it help you to give your audience a focal point, but you can also play with the colors that you will use.

Use colors for emphasis and to convey a message.
Use colors for emphasis and to convey a message.

Colors can also depict emotion. Deciding what colors will be suitable for your website helps you in amplifying your message even more.

For example, your website is for a nonprofit organization concerned with marine life forms. Obviously, the perfect colors for this are in shades of blue. Your audience will be able to interpret the message instantly.

Adjust size for emphasis

Sizing up one element of your website takes more space from the viewer’s screen. There is no way someone is going to miss something this big.

Size matters when it comes to visual hierarchy. Large elements on your landing page attract the most attention.

The size of the bags makes it the focal point of the image.
The size of the bags makes them the focal point of the image.

Make a concise description of your website and highlight it by increasing its size. By manipulating the size of the elements, people will easily notice your message.

Huge Inc. showing support for the Black Lives Matter movement in their workspace.
Huge Inc. showing support for the Black Lives Matter movement in their workspace.

Seeing a bold typeface in a black background brings a contrast between the text and the background. The emphasis is even stronger when the text is enlarged to this size.

It’s easy to get invested in this website because of the prominence of the featured text. If you still want to dive deeper into the topic, you can click on the text and find yourself on this page:

It’s easy to notice the difference between the sizes of the typefaces used in the content.
It’s easy to notice the difference between the sizes of the typefaces used in the content.

The largest text is the most concise message. This is followed by the subheading with a smaller text. Lastly, if you’re still interested to read further, the content has the smallest text among the three.

Highlight important content based on the F and Z eye patterns

The way you perceive the content of a website has a pattern. Visitors scan the page they are seeing in patterns. These patterns are F and Z scanning patterns.

To exploit this, you first need to know more about the F and Z scanning patterns.

F scanning pattern

Visitors will often read through a website horizontally. Notice that the second line is shorter than the first line. This makes it look like the letter F.

This layout induces the eyes to navigate your page with an F-pattern.
This layout induces the eyes to navigate your page with an F-pattern.

What’s important here is the content of your website. Proper word choice and catchphrases often do the trick, as long as your content is relevant.

You need to place the important elements of your website on this reading pattern. This ensures that the important elements are noticeable to visitors.

Z scanning pattern

The topmost elements of your website will differentiate the Z from the F-pattern. In the Z-pattern, calls-to-action (CTA) and important clickable elements can be put on the topmost line.

This layout steers visitors to navigate your page in a Z-pattern.
This layout steers visitors to navigate your page in a Z-pattern.

An image, or any other element aside from a text, prevents the Z-pattern from becoming an F-pattern. This image should point to the CTA of your website.

With this awareness of how the F and Z scanning patterns can be of benefit, you can now design your website and place the most important elements on an F or a Z path.

Show contrasts and UI overlaps for better UX

Having a clear contrast between the foreground and background contributes to the visual hierarchy of your website. Using shadows and color complements provides a contrast between your elements.

Implementing overlapping UI on your website is like feeding your audience one piece of information bit at a time. This creates a visual hierarchy between the components of your website.

For a better user experience, you need to prioritize what you want your audience to see. Nonprofit Web design firms can provide assistance on your layout for this specific purpose.

Negative space for positive results

While using negative space to your advantage may not be a new technique, it has been a trend in web design because of its promising results.

Having a lot of white space (negative space) on your website allows for breathing room between your elements. This prevents the cluttering of elements on your website and also makes other elements stand out from others.

One of the most influential websites to use white space effectively is the Apple website.
One of the most influential websites to use white space effectively is the Apple website.

White space allows you to focus even more on the elements found on the page. It also gives a clean and refreshing look to your website.

Typeface

The goal of implementing a visual hierarchy on your website is to convey your message clearly to your visitors. By being creative with the typeface, you can add emphasis to your message.

The heading of your website should stand out from the rest of your fonts. Most of the time, web designers use a bold sans serif typeface for the headings.

Sub-headings, on the other hand, are there to support the heading. Thus, the typefaces suitable for this are medium-sized serif or sans serif typefaces. In this way, the sub-heading does not steal the attention away from your heading.

Using the Golden Ratio to your advantage

The Golden ratio, in its simplest form, is the proportion of different elements that are aesthetically most pleasing to the eye. The seashell-shaped spiral follows the ratio of 1:1.618.

The application of the Golden Ratio divides the body of the website and the sidebar.
The application of the Golden Ratio divides the body of the website and the sidebar.

Planning and designing your website’s layout based on this ratio creates a visual hierarchy. At first glance, your website will be optimally designed to make a good first impression on your visitors.

Your elements should work together

Organizing your website is like cleaning up your closet. Important clothes come first in line, while others are of less priority. You have to handpick the elements that you want to emphasize on your website.

The elements from your website should work together in unison to yield a good user experience. By following these golden rules, you can create and optimize the visual hierarchy present in your website.

Published by Emma Watson

, an Information Technology Engineer By qualification who loves to write about Windows, macOS and technical solutions for various error and problems. Coming from a solid background in PC building and software development, with complete expertise in touch-based devices, I am constantly keeping an eye out for the latest and greatest!