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Academy Xi Blog

What is visual hierarchy in UX? 7 key principles

By Academy Xi

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When a user has an enjoyable, straight forward experience engaging with an app or website, it’s likely due to those who created the interface having a comprehensive understanding of visual hierarchy within User Experience Design (UX). Let’s take a closer look.

What is visual hierarchy?

The way design elements are arranged to guide the user’s attention and support them in understanding what is being displayed on the app or website is referred to as the visual hierarchy. Visual hierarchy plays an integral role in user-centred design, with seven key principles often being harnessed to support the structure of information architecture – the flow of the content.

The seven key principles of visual hierarchy are:

  1. Size and scale
  2. Colour and contrast
  3. Alignment and spacing
  4. Typography and font
  5. Imagery and iconography
  6. Layout and composition
  7. Movement and animation

#1 Size and scale

Selecting certain design elements to be more dominant in terms of size or scale compared to other aspects can encourage a user’s gaze to focus on specific areas of a screen display, whether that be a mobile, desktop or any other device. Headings and call-to-action buttons are often more prominent, whereas less emphasis is placed on secondary details, which are more likely to be smaller in size and scale. This design principle is one of the most common ways to establish the visual hierarchy in web design and acts as the visual scaffolding for the information architecture.

#2 Colour and contrast

A clear distinction can be made between elements in user interface design by selecting contrasting colours. Implementing this principle can influence the attention of a user, again guiding them in how to interact with the design. Saturated or bright colours usually stand out more than those that are muted, so it makes sense that the most vital elements within the design are bold and vibrant in colour, to ensure they stand out. 

#3 Alignment and spacing

The overall visual organisation of a design relies heavily on alignment and spacing. When design elements are spaced evenly and aligned in a considered way, a sense of calm and order prevails, which makes scanning information easier for users and enables them to quickly comprehend the details. When the alignment and spacing are consistent throughout a website or app, it supports the overall cohesiveness and professionalism of the design, which is best practice for the user experience.

#4 Typography and font

Selecting the right font styles and sizes can greatly impact how a user’s attention is guided, with typography playing a pivotal role in visual hierarchy. Choosing too many fonts can be baffling for a user, but having contrasting typography within a design can support the ideal order of how details should be consumed. For instance, any important details or headings could be in a larger, bolder font, whereas body text can be in a lighter, smaller font to create clarity. Having headings that stand out can also support easier scanning of content, with each heading and subheading providing an overview if not all information is read in full. 

#5 Imagery and iconography

Imagery and iconography can be highly impactful tools that support visual hierarchy, while also conveying meaning. Icons are incredibly helpful and can act as visual signposts that can support users in navigating their journey through an interface, whereas feature imagery can further articulate the key messages of the website, or the mood of a specific aspect. Using consistent icons and image styles throughout an interface is also important in creating visual cohesion, which positively supports the user experience.

#6 Layout and composition

The general behaviour of users needs to be considered when looking at the placement of design elements within an interface. The layout of elements including call-to-action buttons, menus and priority content sections needs to be deliberate, to reflect user expectations and to maximise their experience. If the overall layout and composition of a design is well structured and contains a logical flow, users will ideally engage with the website or app effortlessly. 

#7 Movement and animation

When done well, animations can be the perfect way to guide the attention of users and boost their user experience. But there are a couple of downsides to integrating movement and animation into your interface design. You can run the risk of overwhelming or distracting users with too much movement and animation and there’s also the reality of some graphics taking longer to download, which can create lag time for the user and interfere with their experience of the interface. When in doubt, keep it simple.

The wrap-up

Integrating the seven key principles of visual hierarchy in UX design clearly has many benefits that promote quality user-centred design. When coupled with other tools and approaches of UX design, including user testing, you can continually refine and improve interfaces to ensure that the user is front and centre of all decision-making and modifications, resulting in the best experience possible. 

Ready for your career in UX/UI Design?

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Interested in exploring the world of Graphic Design?

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Academy Xi Blog

How to use grids in interface designs

By Academy Xi

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Keen to create consistent and engaging interface designs that are easy for users to navigate? Welcome to the world of grid layouts.

What is a grid layout?

An essential element of interface design, grid layouts are structures used to organise content into a series of rows and columns, which creates a sense of order and hierarchy. The grid layout helps designers create balanced and visually appealing work and for consumers, this approach is applied to make designs more intuitive and easier to find what they need, whether it be applied to an online or print layout.

Types of grid layouts

While there are many types of grid layouts used by graphic designers, we’re going to check out the five most commonly used.

#1. Responsive grid layout

Frequently used in web design, this layout adjusts the size and position of elements based on the size of the screen or device, ensuring content looks good on everything from a smartphone to a desktop.

#2. Column grid

Popular in print design with newspapers and magazines, the column grid enables a consistent and readable layout, with content being organised into, you guessed it, columns.

#3. Manuscript grid

Based on the proportions of a page, this grid is often used in book design to create a harmonious and balanced layout.

#4. Modular grid

Elements are organised into modules of equal size to create a structured and organised layout.

#5. Baseline grid

This grid aligns elements to horizontal lines and is generally used in typography to create a consistent vertical rhythm and improve readability of text.

What are the benefits of using layout grids in interaction design?

A powerful tool for all designers, but particularly those working on interface designs, layout grids offer a number of great advantages.

Creates clarity and consistency

A layout grid helps designers create a consistent visual language across their designs, making it easier for users to understand and interact with the interface. A consistent layout also ensures that the design is cohesive and looks professional.

Improves design comprehension

By providing a clear design structure, the grid makes it easier for users to understand the interface and how to navigate through it. This is particularly important for complex interfaces that require a lot of user input.

Supports responsiveness

Crucial in today’s mobile first approach, layout grids can support responsive design creation that adapts to different screens and devices.

Speeds up the design process

Clear structure can allow designers to create more efficiently and consistently, with professional results.

Easier modification and reuse

The grid structure enables swift changes to be made if necessary and for the reuse of elements across other interfaces. This can save time and effort for designers and clients.

Facilitates collaboration

Shared language and structure for design can support collaboration between both designers and developers, which in turn supports the creation of effective, user-friendly interfaces.

5 ways to use grid layouts to improve your UI designs

While there are many ways to use grid layouts to support user-centred interface designs, these are the top five to consider.

#1. Customise grids to meet your needs

It’s important to remember that not all grids will work for every project. Confirm your design needs, keeping in mind the type of content you’re working with, the size of the interface and the research you have on the needs of the user.

#2. Focus on flexibility

Ensure your grid layout choice adapts easily across all devices and screens your interface might be accessed on.

#3. Select the right layout tool or generator

With so many tools and generators available on the market, it’s important to choose one that works for your project and design needs. Double check the tool you select offers customisation options and has a user-friendly interface.

#4. Create visual hierarchy

Use your grid to align elements and create balance between positive and negative space, while ensuring there’s a sense of order and structure in your design.

#5. Establish consistency

Key in UI design, a consistent look and feel can be achieved across your entire interface with the help of grid layouts.

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industry. You’ll learn to place the user’s needs at the centre of the design process, so you can create smooth and functional products that leave a lasting impression.

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The best work from home career paths to pursue

Academy Xi Blog

The best work from home career paths to pursue in 2023

By Academy Xi

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The best work from home career paths to pursue

A little old global pandemic accelerated the popularity of working from home and it appears to be a trend that’s here to stay. Read on to discover which careers suit the hybrid and 100% remote set up.

Current and future trends in remote work

Remote working offers flexibility for individuals and companies alike – whether you’re a contractor, full or part-time permanent employee. We’ve scoped out some of the current trends and forecasts.

Hybrid working

As organisations have begun the process of reopening their office spaces, hybrid models have grown in popularity as a stepping stone to eventually returning full time, or for some, the promise of continued location flexibility, with a split between time working from home and at HQ.

Distributed teams

Remote arrangements enable companies to hire talent from anywhere around the globe and has resulted in distributed teams becoming more commonplace. This setup could include people being based in different states, countries and timezones and can be logistically challenging, but also enable a wider talent pool to be tapped into.

Remote work technologies

Supporting collaboration between workers in remote teams has meant an increase in tech options including video conferencing, project management software and virtual reality tools that enable teams to feel like they’re in the same room together.

Work-life balance

A major benefit of remote working is the ability to achieve a better balance between personal and professional life. We can expect to see more emphasis on flexible working arrangements in the future as more companies embrace the possibility as a permanent fixture.

Cybersecurity

With the increase of remote working also comes the influx of cybersecurity threats. Companies are needing to step up network security and train remote workers to follow best practices when it comes to online security.

Why remote work is gaining popularity

Remote work is gaining popularity for several reasons, including flexibility of being able to work anywhere with a decent internet connection, increased productivity and cost savings for both employees and companies alike. There are also environmental benefits with a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions associated with less commuting.

Popular remote and hybrid career paths that are hiring like crazy

The following careers are seeing an increase in hiring for positions that are hybrid and fully remote, making them attractive options for many.

Developer/Software Engineer

As more companies move their operations online, the demand for developers and software engineers has increased. These professionals are responsible for building and maintaining websites, software applications, and other digital products. Skills in programming languages such as Python, Java, and JavaScript are in high demand.

UI/UX Designer

User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) Designers are responsible for creating digital products that are easy to use and visually appealing. They design everything from websites to mobile apps and software interfaces. In addition to technical skills, UI/UX designers need strong soft skills, such as collaboration and communication.

Graphic Designer

Creating visual designs for logos, marketing materials and websites is amongst the mix of a designer’s remit, with the demand expected to continue to grow as companies increasingly invest in their digital marketing efforts. 

Copywriter/Content Producer

Any written content that features on online platforms (think websites, social media, apps) is created by copy and content writers or content producers. Solid writing and editing skills are needed, along with knowledge of SEO and content marketing. 

Social Media Manager

Responsible for creating and executing social media strategies for businesses, social media managers create content, manage social accounts, and analyse engagement metrics. They need to have strong communication and analytical skills, as well as a deep understanding of social media platforms and their algorithms.

Online Marketer

Driving traffic and leads to websites and other digital platforms is the main goal of the online marketer. Strategies such as SEM, SEO, email marketing and social media marketing can all be used to target the key audiences. 

Virtual Assistant

Remote administrative support is provided by virtual assistants, or VAs, with tasks such as managing emails, data entry and customer service being offered. Some VAs may also manage social media channels and other digital marketing tasks, depending on their skillset. 

Website Content Uploader

Website content uploaders are responsible for publishing and managing website content. They may upload blog posts, images, and videos, and ensure that content is properly formatted and optimised for search engines.

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Better still, we offer training for careers that you can do remotely. Get the skills that employers are searching for with practical and industry-relevant courses in:

If you have any questions, our experienced team is here to discuss your training options. Speak to a course advisor and take the first steps in your remote working career journey.

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Master Your Job Search: Strategies for success

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Are you looking for job search strategies that will accelerate your job search? Have you made 100s of applications, submitting your CV and Cover letter and still not landed a role?

Join Will Phillips, Head of Career Support & Talent Services at Academy Xi, to discuss simple job search strategies that will help you tap into your professional network so that you can successfully accelerate your career transition.

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