A polysaccharide-rich mucilage is released from the seed coat epidermis of numerous plant species and has been intensively studied in the model plant Arabidopsis. This has led to the identification of a large number of genes involved in the synthesis, secretion and modification of cell wall polysaccharides such as pectin, hemicellulose and cellulose being identified. These genes include a small network of transcription factors (TFs) and transcriptional co-regulators, that not only regulate mucilage production, but epidermal cell differentiation and in some cases flavonoid biosynthesis in the internal endothelial layer of the seed coat. Here we focus on the function of these regulators and propose a simplified model where they are assigned to a hierarchical gene network with three regulatory levels (tiers) as a means of assisting in the interpretation of the complexity. We discuss limitations of current methodologies and highlight some of the problems associated with defining the function of TFs, particularly those that perform different functions in adjacent layers of the seed coat. We suggest approaches that should provide a more accurate picture of the function of transcription factors involved with mucilage production and release.