Visual hierarchy is all about getting your message and brand story across.Did you know that when most people land on your website they won’t read a majority of the content you spent countless hours crafting? The walls of text that you poured your heart and soul into will more than likely go unread by a majority of the people who end up on your site.

This isn’t to say that content doesn’t have its place on your website or in your digital marketing strategy because it definitely does. But, it is to say that most people are visual thinkers. When we look at an image or a graphic, we’re able to process it quicker and distill it down to a central idea, which is why visual hierarchy is so crucial to your website design.

What exactly is visual hierarchy?

In basic terms, visual hierarchy is the organization and prioritization of content (including images and graphics) as a way to communicate a specific idea, thought, or message.

When it comes to visual hierarchy, designers have to think about a number of things:

  • Where should the audience look first?
  • What’s the most important piece of information on this page?
  • What’s the best way to move the audience down the page?
  • Where’s the best place for a call-to-action?
  • What image or graphic will communicate the message best?

Ultimately, design is about communication. Your website design should be communicating a cohesive message to everyone who visits. The design and layout of each page should contribute to the message in a positive way. So, when thinking about how a page should be laid out, we have to turn to visual hierarchy.

The Visual Hierarchy Basics

Here’s what it boils down to: the people visiting your site, won’t process everything the same way. The huge header image you have at the top of your home page is going to be the thing they latch onto first, not the title right below it. So, you have to ask, which one is more important? If that image is crucial, does it communicate the right message? Will a visitor understand the general gist of your company, your brand story, your offering just by viewing that image?

Here are the elements that have to be considered when thinking about visual hierarchy:


Size really does matter. It’s actually one of the easiest design hierarchy elements to understand. If something is bigger, then it must be more important, right?

Our eyes are automatically drawn to larger text, images, and graphics. If you have five lines of text and the third line is the largest font size, then readers will automatically see it first. So you have to ask, which line of text is the most important? The least important?


When dealing with graphical elements, you have to think about consistency and relevancy. Shapes can start to blend in with each other if they are all the same, but a single shape not like the others will stand out to anyone.

People gravitate towards the irregular shape in any design. So, if your about page features headshots of your employees and everyone’s image is in a circle except Jim from accounting who is in a square, then site visitors will notice Jim first.


Elements can actually be placed strategically on your webpages to attract the eye because there are natural visual hierarchy positions. For example, in a circle, the center is the most hierarchical point.

When it comes to your website design, the top of the page is the most hierarchical point, but it isn’t always the most important. The challenge is moving viewers down the page to your CTA. You have to use images, graphics, and content to keep viewers engaged long enough to get them there while telling the story of the page.


For this design element, you just have to think about advertisements you’ve seen lately. Have they been black and white? Muted tones? Are the pictures faded? Does the text blend into the background?

If the ad was any good, you should have answered “no” to all of those questions. When it comes to color in visual hierarchy, bright, bold colors stand out. Light tints will push content (including images and graphics) to the background while richer, darker tints will bring that same content forward.

Visual Hierarchy And Your Website

When it comes to your website, you have to use visual hierarchy to communicate your brand’s story, message, and value proposition. If you don’t think about the way the elements on any given page interact with each other, then you could end up sending a mixed message to your audience. When that happens, no one will end up understanding who you are as a brand and will more than likely move on to one of your competitors.

If you’re ready to build a website using visual hierarchy to attract more leads, tell a cohesive brand story, and grow your business, then Iconic Digital is your digital agency Indianapolis team. We are design geeks, content wizards, and marketing fanatics ready to help you build an unstoppable website strategy.

Contact us today for a free consultation!