There are five main settlement patterns: compact settlement, scattered settlement, ordered settlement, linear settlement and nodal settlement. A settlement pattern is the way a population disperses over a particular area. Settlement patterns are defined by size, shape and population size. Topography and climate are the two major influences on settlement patterns.
Linear settlement, scattered settlement, compact settlement and ordered settlement are the most common settlement patterns. Linear settlements occur along major highways or rivers, and are long and narrow in shape. Scattered settlement patterns are common in rural areas. This pattern occurs when homes are located significant distances apart, and there is no central cluster of homes or businesses. Compact settlement patterns are most often found in cities. Despite the name, compact settlements can be very large if the population is concentrated in one area, Ordered settlement patterns occur when homes are designed on a grid pattern. Most suburban areas are examples of ordered settlement patterns.
A nodal settlement pattern is the only pattern that is composed of more than one settlement pattern. A nodal settlement pattern typically includes a city with a compact settlement pattern in the center and a nearby suburban area with an ordered settlement pattern that surrounds the city. Together, these two patterns form a nodal settlement pattern.