Hierarchy of information is the first of our new series of blog articles based on Design Principles in relation to e-learning design and development. This series will provide insight into various principles explaining their importance and why they are required in order to produce quality, well-crafted design.

The hierarchy of information is a universal design principle that should be used in all forms of design, including e-Learning design. By definition, it is the arrangement of elements or content on a page/screen in such a way that it reveals an order of importance (either ascending or descending).

What are the principles of the Hierarchy of Information?

Design elements can consist of anything including typography, graphics, colours, contrast, weight, position, size and space (including negative space). The trick is how you use these elements to accomplish the order of importance that you want.

Take this article for example, currently it’s fairly plain, but if you click here, you can see what it would look like when the principles of the Hierarchy of Information have been put into practice.

I’ve had a go at listing some guidelines for applying the heirarchy of information to your own work:

  1. Make a list of the different points of information that you’re working with and order them numerically.
  2. Now make sure that number one is standing out a little bit more than number two, you can do this by adjusting the elements of this particular point of information (i.e. its size, colour, weight, etc.).
  3. Carry on with this throughout the list and then you would have created a descending hierarchy of information (do the reverse for an ascending hierarchy).
  4. And remember it doesn’t matter in which direction the document flows, just as long as it flows in a specific direction.

The principles of the hierarchy are actually pretty simple and easy to implement, but can have a massive impact on how your message is perceived and received.

Why is the Hierarchy of Information Important?

The hierarchy of information design principle allows the designer/developer to point out to the viewer what he wants the viewer to see first. This is very important in today’s society as most people are in a hurry, even on the web. With the hierarchy principle, a designer can ‘shout out’ what he thinks is most important on the page/screen before the viewer gets bored and moves on.

If the hierarchy is done well, then the content should naturally become an easy read. It creates a path for the viewer’s eye to follow through the page/screen. The viewer should be able to scan through the document and still get the picture. When it comes to designing layout this principle is functional and very effective.

How does this apply to e-Learning?

E-Learning comprises all forms of electronically supported learning including, computer-based learning, the internet, cellular phones and tablets. Implementing the Hierarchy of Information in e-Learning would entail considering how each electronic device functions, what its limitations are, how it displays information and how users interact with the device.

The challenge is then to make sure your design creates an order of importance and facilitates comprehension while at the same time adhering to any device’s functions, limitations and display features. In other words, the design must be compatible with both the content and technology.

Why it is important for us at Bridgewater Learning

Here at Bridgewater Learning we pride ourselves on the learning content that we provide to our clients. As a company that takes educating people very seriously we have realized that it’s not only the provision of quality content but how you provide it that matters. The need to grab and hold a learner is extremely important as today’s audiences are easily distracted.

We make use of the hierarchy of design principle in order to make our learning content not only informative, but attractive as well.

So there you go! a design principle to help you create work that is functional and effective.

For answers to questions and graphic design solutions please contact us.