In my app, a customer/user is assigned a hierarchy (for example geo-hierarchy) for various purpose such as reports (e.g. if assigned at Dehli 'a state' then assumed segregation lower levels of hierarchy such as city ), authorization (authorized to transact for certain level of geographical location), responsibility, etc.

A node in hierarchy may have a parent (if not then it is a root node and there can be only one root node) and one or more childs. For example, if hierarchical structure is defined as Continent -> Country -> State -> City, then a country will have only one parent as continent, but many states as child.

I want user to be able to define the hierarchical structure to suit his business needs. As of now there are multiple kinds of hierarchy that user can define and use later such as Geographical, Sales, Product, etc.

My concern is that this all that 'Hierarchy' or 'Hierarchical Structure' seems too techincal a term for a user to understand, especially when

  • when translated to another language,
  • and when user himself has not defined them but has to select a value from it while doing a transaction.

How can I make it less techincal or more simpler for the user, especially for those who may not have any exposure to systems before? Thanks in advance.

  • 'Group' or 'Cluster' are two words which can potentially replace 'Hierarchy' wherever appropriate.
    – Chetan
    Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 6:52
  • EL&U may be a better fit for this question, but it’s not entirely off-topic here either. PS: Which continent is Russia or Istanbul on?
    – Crissov
    Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 7:53
  • Context will be key here, but in general, I don't know that 'hierarchy' would be seen as 'technical' at all. It's a not uncommon word.
    – DA01
    Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 8:55

2 Answers 2


If there is a single root node, and each node can have one parent and n children then this is a tree structure. I think this term should be understood by those less technical.

  • 1
    I'd argue a tree structure is more technical of a term than hierarchy. (the former being mostly a UI term, the latter a more general term)
    – DA01
    Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 8:56
  • 1
    @DA01 Biologists might not agree that it is mostly a UI term. Besides, who doesn't know what a tree looks like? :D
    – Franchesca
    Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 9:21
  • Franchesca, +1, didn't thought of this, quite simple. However, what would you call a Geopgrahical hierarchical value or Product hierarchical value in terms of tree? Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 17:38
  • @gurvinder372 The way you display them on the screen can be used to indicate that they are a node in a structure. Then you can just call them "location" and "product".
    – Franchesca
    Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 8:03
  • The way you display them on the screen can be used to indicate that they are a node in a structure can you share an example of the same. Also ` Then you can just call them "location" and "product"` I already have a product field, this hierarchy field is used to put those products under a category. Thanks for your inputs. Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 8:06

First off, I would disagree that "hierarchy" is a too technical term. Anyone not understanding the word can look it up in a simple dictionary. The term is widely used in various contexts of non technical nature.

If you really need an alternative, I think so far Franchesca's answer is the best. Everyone knows what a tree is and understands the structure of a tree with a trunk, branches, twigs and leafs.

Depending on the context, here are some alternatives for the English language:

  • Structure
  • Organisation structure
  • Network structure
  • Order
  • Ranking
  • Pecking order
  • Placing order
  • Setup chain
  • Topology

Mind that the cure may be worse than the disease. I can assume that when using a term such as "setup chain" you are in fact making things more complex. It somehow suggests to users than the concept is more, or somehow different than a simple hierarchy.

  • First off, I would disagree that "hierarchy" is a too technical term I would argue that this term is mostly used only in certain context such as hierarchy of authority etc. It is not used in our daily conversations that much, at least not in my country. I agree however that using words like Setup chain could be more confusing. +1 and thanks for your inputs. Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 17:43

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