In a presentation, or a seminar or just a conversation, the speaker starts presenting the topic by introducing the title of the topic, then gives a brief overview, the background and then gently flows into talking about the details of the topic and concludes with the summary or an inference.
Similarly, when writing an article, one first starts with an abstract, an introduction, then writes the details of the topic in the body and ends by writing a summary or a conclusion.
Order and organization of information from a reference point to the last detail, in sequence, is the most crucial part of effective and seamless communication and storytelling.
Design, like writing, or a verbal presentation, or even a casual conversation is a medium of communication and a channel for storytelling. It follows the same principles of hierarchy and order as in any method of communication. Only when information is organized in a good hierarchical manner, the story is told most effectively.
Most people are visual thinkers, chances of people understanding a set of images and text put together in a grid with no starting or an end point are very slim, instead, going through and comprehending information which is ordered in a top to bottom approach is much more meaningful.
For instance, the design of a newspaper is a classic example of using hierarchy in the most effective way to help people read highlights and pick information they want to read. Hierarchical patterns in design can not only aid comprehension but also enable quick scanning of information, guide the user through the story and improve usability.
As time becomes an increasingly valuable commodity, grabbing the user’s attention and retaining it has become the most important and the most challenging thing today. Designing information in a way that calls for the user’s attention and retains it is the key to a successful communication strategy and Hierarchy forms one of the most important ingredients for effective communication.
In a QlikView application the D-A-R concept (Dashboard, analysis, report) is a great method to provide contextual hierarchy where the content is presented in a top down approach. This makes it easier for the user to grasp the data from start to finish and also enables them to pick out information that they intends to drill down to and analyze.
However basic and overemphasized these principles may seem, the fact is that they always seem to work and give rise to good user experience. Research and usability tests prove that when a design layout adheres to the basic principles of design, the design becomes more user-friendly, simple and obvious. Hierarchy is one of the most important principles of basic design and should be applied to all designs from simple to complex. A technical brief can be found here which expands more on this topic.