Layering patterns are used to differentiate key content from extra details.
Creating a hierarchy (also visually) helps readers to avoid information overload when faced with text-heavy documents like contracts: the most important information is quickly and easily findable even for the less motivated reader, while extra details are available “on demand” for those who want or need them. It is a fact that most people, especially if busy, read strategically (e.g., by skimming, scanning, previewing), rather than reading every single word or sentence. Layering is a good practice to support strategic reading.
Layering can help contract crafters with these problems:
- “People don’t read the contract”
- ”People don’t even know the key points of the contract, what’s in and what’s out”
- “As a result, people make mistakes, are not compliant, or pester me all the time with the same questions”
- ”I need a way to capture people’s limited attention”
Layering can help contract readers with these problems:
- “I have too much to read, and no time”
- ”I need/want to read only the most important information, and to read it quickly”
- “Part of the information is irrelevant for me, I don’t need/want to see it”
- “If the topic is unfamiliar, I need basic orientation first”
- “As a novice reader, I need extra explanations in context (which an expert wouldn’t need)”
- ”As an expert, I need extra details in context (which would instead confuse a novice)”