is the effect where one or more elements is shown as part of a group or
category, through a visual mechanism.
There are two variations of
mechanism: strict encapsulation, where the element is totally contained
within a box; and softer containment, where the box is suggested using
the hierarchical cascade and white space.
This is where you show that an
element is part of, or a child of, or (one-way) related to, another
element, by placing the child within the bounds of the parent. The
parent might be identified simply by a label that's either inside the
box and towards the origin, or sitting on the edge of the box.
In this example, the three panels
clearly belong to the group "Home page - Features", because the title
bar defines a box that contains the three objects below.
Here, the title describes the child
items: they are all "Features on the home page"
Alternatively, it might simply be a
box within a box that is otherwise identified (e.g. links associated
with this document).
Soft: Hierarchical cascade
This is the softer alternative to the
more literal encapsulation. It doesn't depend on the 'higher' element
actually encompassing the 'lesser' element, but the containment is
suggested through visual superiority. The 'superior' element should be
laid out near the 'lesser' or child elements, and toward the origin
(either to the left, or above, or both).
Although there is no physical
containing box, the title "Bargain flights" obviously applies to every
item in the list.
This is suggested because the title is
situated between the list and the page origin, and reinforced by the
title bar projecting a little further left (towards the origin) than
the list, and spanning its full width.
The 3 types of house all belong to the
category "Three-bedroomed Homes"
Although the title "Three-bedroomed
homes" does not span the the full width of the child elements, it
projects slightly left of their left edge, and no other element exists
in the imaginary box created by the white space.
Example of too much encapsulation
view image full-size
This page uses too much
encapsulation, with the result that everything seems separate, with
nothing related to anything else. You also don't know where to look
Several self-contained sections, like
the blue header, create hard breaks across the full width of the
The only way to maintain visual
relationships in this scenario would be to use strict alignment,
indenting elements different amount to suggest their relationships. The
centre-aligned navigation here is particularly ineffective.
Example of incomplete encapsulation
This snippet shows incomplete boxes.
It's encapsulation that's started but not finished.
I think that the end result is worse
than having all boxes or just using whitespace and no boxes at all. It
causes an illusion that the brain finds unsettling.