Both technological capabilities and customer tastes are undergoing rapid transformations (what feels like on an hourly basis). In this chaotic world that moves at such a breakneck pace, it is easy for us to forget that the fundamentals of human psychology and sensory experience have not changed at all.

One of these roles is the manner in which humans see and interpret visual information, with a specific emphasis on visual hierarchy.

Humans are visual beings.

Despite the fact that the frequently circulated infographics and “content marketing” postings that claim humans digest visuals 60,000 times quicker than text are not supported by any credible evidence, a research did discover that presentations that make use of visual aids are 43% more convincing than presentations that do not make use of such aids.

Therefore, we can claim with a reasonable level of assurance that graphics impact the split-second purchasing decisions that customers make without even recognizing it’s having an effect on them.

As a consequence of this, marketers have a responsibility to educate themselves on the ways in which they may leverage impulsive customer behaviors at various points of their sales funnel by utilizing visual hierarchy on their website or app.

What is Visual Hierarchy

To begin, in the context of web design, what exactly is meant by the word “visual hierarchy”?

To put it simply, it refers to the manner in which the page is organized out to visually indicate the order of the material as well as its relevance. The formation of a feeling of depth is achieved by mapping out certain clues, such as differences in size, color, contrast, shape, location, and arrangement, to build a visual hierarchy.

Every day, we are exposed to different levels of visual hierarchy. To give you a basic example that can be found in everyday life, think about when you are scrolling through the blue and white interface of Facebook. What is it that always stands out the most to you? Obviously, the flashing warning light in a brilliant shade of red!

Visual Hierarchy Facebook Web Design

Visual hierarchy is a fundamental aspect in the design of both websites and physical products, yet the idea behind it is not at all difficult to understand. However, there is a good chance that it will require some practice before we can do it correctly.

Incorporating neurological signals into the design of your platform in the following ways will help you produce a powerful feeling of visual hierarchy:

1. Establish Defined Scanning Patterns

Everyone, regardless of their cultural upbringing, typically consumes text from the highest point on the page to the lowest, and the vast majority of people read from left to right. It is essential to keep in mind that visitors to a website will only sometimes read each and every word posted there. Users will often skim the material of a website as rapidly as they can in order to decide whether or not they want to investigate further.

According to a study that was published in 2014 by Chartbeat, you have, on average, roughly 15 seconds of a reader’s attention when they are online. After that, its CEO Tony Haile offered some wise words of advise for marketers, which were as follows:

We often talk about a million different techniques to “grab” the interest of a reader. Do we, however, have any trustworthy means of “keeping” it? According to the findings of a study that was carried out by Nielsen Norman Group, the human brain has a tendency to scan material in two separate patterns.

When scanning a page with a lot of text, such as a blog post, or a website with blocks of images that are constant, such as a list of products, the scanning behavior typically follows a F pattern.

Take a look at this heat map of eye traffic gathered from (uniform) search results, articles, and e-commerce websites:

F-patterns scanning in web design

If you look closely, you’ll see that the left half of the page is emphasized a lot more than the right side of the page. The participants in this study spoke English, therefore the results may have been different for those whose languages are written from right to left. However, the study was performed with people who spoke English. It functions in a way that is quite similar to the way that people have been reading ever since the beginning of time.

Neil Patel has maintained over the course of his career that the F-shaped pattern “isn’t a commonality anymore,” citing the proliferation of mobile apps and mobile web surfing, shifts in content formats, creative applications of call-to-actions (CTAs), and a complete overhaul in the presentation of search engine results as some of the reasons for this assertion.

On the other hand, a Z pattern is appropriate for sites with a stronger emphasis on visual elements, such as ads.

Z-patterns scanning in web design

This pattern of scanning occurs more frequently when the text is not organized into block paragraphs. When reading, it is common practice for the reader to begin at the top of the page, move quickly to the opposite page corner in search of further information, then move diagonally down the page to start the following block from the left, and so on.

How can you apply this idea to your website or product in a way that would enhance the user experience and increase conversions?

It is standard practice for web designers to construct their sites expressly around the neurological activities that are being studied. Because the first step of both patterns is the same, it is advisable to put the information that is most significant on the top left of your pattern. Take a look at the homepages of the most prominent e-commerce websites. Here’s Amazon:

Amazon Website Design

And here’s Etsy:

Etsy Website Design

You’ll probably notice that logos are positioned at the upper left corner of the page most of the time. On the other side, there is a section with choices to sign up or sign in. Then, once guests have made their way to the center of the room, they are prompted to look at various things. In most cases, the end points ask for a call to action (CTA) for additional action.

By utilizing these neurological inclinations and scanning patterns to your advantage, you will not only be able to encourage people to investigate your platform, but you will also be able to efficiently direct the users’ unconscious decision-making process toward a conversion and move them further down the sales funnel.

As a marketer that is motivated by data, you should be aware that you have access to a wide variety of tools that may help you identify the unique viewing habits on your website.

These include software solutions for eye tracking, recording user behavior, heat maps (which display interaction with moving and dynamic components as opposed to merely snapshots), click maps, scroll maps, and funnel visualizations. Eye tracking is a technique that monitors and records the movements of the user’s eyes.

Visual Hierarchy Web Design Scanning Pattern

2. Experiment with White Space

In the context of visual hierarchy, white space is likely the element of design that is given the least amount of consideration.

Believe it or not, the use of white space has its own distinct aesthetic importance in the design of websites for online stores. The fundamental principle is that an element will garner more attention if there is a greater amount of white space surrounding it.

In terms of the influence on the nervous system, there are a lot of positive aspects to putting this idea into practice strategically…

White Space Improves Focus

It can’t be denied that today’s users of the internet have a high sense of urgency when they peruse stuff on the online. In web design, keeping things as simple as possible is a tremendous asset.

The unconscious mind process, also known as System One, is characterized by its tendency toward impulsivity, formative thinking, and intuitive guidance. In contrast, the conscious thought process, also known as System Two, is characterized by its tendency toward sluggish and analytical thinking.

Dual Process Theory

Dual Process Theory in decision making (Image Source)

Because we only have a few seconds to capture the attention of website visitors, making effective use of white space is an excellent approach to swiftly draw their attention to crucial parts of the page. This may take the form of headlines, graphics, call-to-action (CTA) buttons, or links to information of value.

Apple breaks up the flow of their product pages with strategically placed whitespace, which appeals to both the conscious and unconscious brain processes by distinctly dividing the informative (Learn More) and transactional (Buy) pathways:

Mac White Space Web Design

White Space Creates Balance

The success of your website’s flow depends greatly on your ability to strike a fluid balance between the readability and usefulness of its many components. Experimentation could be required in order to find the optimal proportion of informational content to blank space on a page. Keep in mind that readers may interpret an excessive amount of white space as an absence of information and substance, whilst an insufficient amount may appear unorganized to them.

Sony is a wonderful example of how to effectively use white space in the arrangement of something:

Sony White Space Balance Web Design

When customers come on an e-commerce site, their first priority is to see the core of the product or service being offered as soon as feasible. The navigational maps that Sony creates for its customers take advantage of size and white space to point consumers in the direction of the items of their choosing. You’ll notice that there is never an excessive amount of information at any stage, and the process of digging down into categories is straightforward and easy to understand.

Consider the white space on your website to be the mortar that binds the entire visual structure of your site together. At the end of the day, its principal function is to accommodate the limits of human memory and attention in order to provide a seamless user experience flow.