Content hierarchy is about how your content is organized and presented. Most web users only spend seconds scanning a page for something of interest before giving up. That is to say, investors are not going to work to figure out what you’re trying to say. A story that is easy to navigate and understand is a good indicator that the story is also strong and compelling.
When Should You Address Content Hierarchy?
Content hierarchy is interesting because it’s as much a business challenge as a web design challenge. Companies with a well-defined narrative are in a much better position to plan content than companies who are still figuring out their story. If your narrative is not well-defined, jumping into the content hierarchy conversation is likely to wind up with you running in circles. Planning your messaging strategy first will go a long way towards sorting out your business story. When you reach this point, your content hierarchy will seemingly reveal itself.
Establish What’s Important
When designing content hierarchy, the goal is to guide your audience and tell them what is most important… and what is least important. Professional designers visualize these decisions in terms of trade-offs.
Let’s take a generic biotech website navigation for example:
If we put all of these items in the site navigation at the top of the page, a site visitor will interpret all of these pages as being equally important. It’s important to note this interpretation is subconscious. We all make these judgements every day on every website we visit. Communicating to the subconscious as opposed to making a user consciously think about the site (i.e. “making them work”) is what user experience is all about!
An improved version of our navigation would be:
- About (Team can be a dropdown)
Now our navigation has less items. The smaller list of items creates less work for site visitors. We have made it easier for our site visitors to find the site’s primary content and reduced their mental workload so they can stay focused. Success!
This same exercise can be applied to all of the content on your website. And there are several other options besides order that can contribute to a great content hierarchy.
More Options for Indicating Level of Importance
- White space (more space around an item indicates more importance)
Thoughtfully mixing these options will achieve the best results. Professional web designers use these elements to solve content hierarchy challenges. And because they’ve encountered these challenges thousands of times, they will have an excellent grasp of what will work, what is appropriate for your industry, and how your content hierarchy can measure up to that of your competitors.