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Simplifying Information Hierarchy

By: Mary Barbour

Last week we talked about the use of wireframes and the kinds of sites that require more sophisticated ones vs. sites that can get away with a simple diagram. Within this discussion, we mentioned “information hierarchy” as a way of organizing the content on your site into categories of importance. Let’s go into a little more detail on this.

Website design has nothing to do with design for design’s sake. In other words, no piece of content should be placed somewhere just because “it looks good there.” It’s our strategy that the placement of every single piece of content on the page must not only look right where it is, but also be placed in accordance with its level of importance in the context of all other information on the page.

We have a little system we like to call the 1, 2, 3 approach. We rank every piece of content as 1. Most Important, 2. Moderately Important, and 3. Less Important. This helps to ensure that your users are immediately directed to the content you want them to find. For instance, on the Command C site, our work is our best sales tool, so we have six different entry points to our portfolio. The second most important goal of our site is to make it as easy as possible for users to get in touch with us. So on the homepage, there are three links that lead the user to a contact form. We made sure to position the “get in touch” link in a prominent place on the page where the users eye is immediately drawn.

Information hierarchy should offer a guided path experience (creating a design that leads the user to high priority content areas) while making all pertinent information easily accessible. Even when the user clicks on another link (About or Services, for example), the contact information still remains prominent. They won’t be frustrated by having to return to the homepage or have to click through various pages to find contact info again. Sure, this is web design 101, but time and time again, we find that going back to the basics is just as important as staying atop of the curve.

We think that less is more when it comes to displaying information. Keep your top-rated content bold and accessible, and tuck everything else underneath the fold. Your users will be have a simple and successful experience and you’ll see the results of it.

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