The importance of hierarchy of information in UX design

by | Jul 17, 2023 | User Experience

How to avoid trifle mishaps and UX disasters

Have you ever seen that episode of Friends where Rachel tries to make a trifle but ends up adding layers of beef because her cookbook had two recipes stuck together? That’s basically what happens when you don’t have a clear information hierarchy in your user experience (UX) design.

Although some people have enough cooking experience to veer off the recipe book and still create something delicious, it’s safest to assume that most don’t.


Hierarchy, shmierarchy. Why bother?

A clear hierarchy of info ensures users can easily follow the steps, find the information they need, and achieve their goals without turning dessert into a meat casserole.

If that doesn’t answer your question, here’s what can go wrong if you don’t have a hierarchy of information:

  • A disorienting experience where users feel lost and unsure about where to go or what to do next
  • Information overload that makes it difficult to focus on essential content
  • An inefficient UX that results in users wasting their time and effort sifting through irrelevant or less critical information
  • Poor usability and navigation that hinders the user’s ability to complete a task
  • More abandoned experiences, reduced user engagement, and lower conversion rates


Benefits of hierarchy of information in UX

  1. Clear and efficient navigation
    A well-designed information hierarchy guides users through the digital landscape, enabling them to navigate and find what they’re looking for without wanting to throw their phones out the window with frustration. These categories and subcategories let users easily understand and follow the structure while reducing cognitive load and enhancing the overall UX.
  2. Focus on #goals
    Information hierarchy allows you to prioritise content based on user goals and needs. By understanding user expectations and aligning the content accordingly, you can ensure critical information is readily available, ultimately creating a smooth user journey. If the user’s goal isn’t to traumatise their loved ones, don’t put chilli in the pie recipe (or list it as an “optional” ingredient).
  3. Visual hierarchy and scannability
    The goal is to guide the user’s eye to the most important aspects of the page. Using visual cues to communicate the relationships between different content elements can direct user attention and emphasise critical information. This enhances the scannability and lets users quickly identify and digest relevant information.It’s like the difference between scanning a recipe book with ingredients, instructions, and measurements bundled into one paragraph and scanning a Jamie Oliver recipe book. Both are confusing, but at least you can realise relatively quickly that you can’t make a Jamie dish.
  4. Easy comprehension
    Like a Jamie Oliver recipe book, many complex concepts look more understandable when structured logically. Logically presenting information helps users grasp the context and connections between different pieces of content, promoting better comprehension, reducing confusion, and supporting them in making informed decisions or taking appropriate actions.
  5. Encourages rabbit holes
    By highlighting related content or suggesting further exploration, users are encouraged to engage further…which is exactly what you want, right? We’ve all been duped by clickbait articles that left us reading about weird stuff, like Taylor Swift’s nose hair routine. Creating an immersive UX promotes engagement and retention. (Don’t go the clickbait route, though.)
  6. Improved mobility and responsiveness
    There’s a big difference between following a recipe online and following one in a book. Online recipes usually include pop-up videos with cosmetic and real estate ads, whereas recipe books give you precisely what you want and only that. Same goes for desktop vs mobile searches. Mobile designs have limited screen space, requiring careful content prioritisation and presentation to optimise the UX.
  7. Branding and uniformity
    A consistent hierarchy of information reinforces the brand identity and user familiarity. For example, you don’t combine breakfast, dinner, and dessert recipes in a cookbook; it’s confusing as hell and will take hours to find the apple crumble recipe amongst the chicken stroganoff and eggs benedict. Maintaining consistent visual and structural patterns across different screens or pages lets users develop a mental model of the system, fostering a sense of trust, familiarity, and brand recognition.

Confused? Overwhelmed? Tired? Call us; we have the perfect recipe for information hierarchy.

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