Design or Content: Which Comes First?
Design or Content: Which Comes First?

Design or Content: Which Comes First?

It’s the age-old “chicken or the egg” question and your business must know the answer.

Does design or content sit in the driver’s seat? Or more specifically, do you let the design drive the content or do you let the content drive the design? 

There’s no doubt – content is one of the most important variables to stellar design. Whether you’re the client or you’re the designer, understanding the perks of design-driven content and content design is essential to a smooth and successful website design.

While certain factors like industry, deadline, and target audience will dictate which approach works best for you, let’s look at some of the perks of directing a website project with a content- or design-first plan.
           User Experience vs Design

Design-Driven Content

When design is behind the steering wheel, the website is built around eye-catching design. So, in the chicken-and-the-egg scenario, in this case, design comes first. Content comes later.

Even if you’re unsure about the specifics of the content, like your business’ vision, what your brand looks like, or how to get started, don’t worry–your designer will help with that.

1. Design First

Do you have a clear picture of what you want the website to look like? You probably have an idea about the messaging you want to send to your consumers.

But can you visualize how your message will look and how or what will entice your consumers to purchase and actively engage on your website?

A good designer has a keen ability to understand your brand and can creatively position elements to persuade the end-user to purchase your products or services.

But sometimes the content won’t be ready when starting the website design, and that’s OK.

We can create the design based on a well-rounded, in-depth brand discussion on factors like company history, services and products, and target demographic. Sure, content up-front is ideal, but not a necessity to get started.

Pro-Tip: If you’re the designer, having a ‘Client Questionnaire’ to find out more information will streamline the design process, minimize time spent in meetings and ensure a stronger knowledge of your clients needs. If you’re the client, make sure your designer sends you one of these.

(Below is an example of our client questionnaire.)

Client Design Questionnaire

2. Information Overload

Many websites are riddled with content that isn’t specific to what the brand is selling.

It provides no impact for the business and does nothing to capture the consumer. It’s just fluff.

Don’t be the designer OR business making this mistake.

By utilizing your brand elements and colors, and focusing on key imagery relating to your business, your website becomes a powerful visual stamp for your customer. (And you DON’T need boatloads of content to deliver a clear message.)

You DO, however, need short, descriptive, catchy content paired with well thought-out user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design to drive those customers home (or to the checkout!).

3. Design and Stories

It’s not a new concept in the web-design industry, but it’s a clever and approachable way to reel in your consumers.

Everyone loves a good story.

Stories evoke feelings, provide a sense of familiarity and leave the user with a clear picture of what you’re selling or promoting.

Design can tell that story. It should visually attract and hook customers with bold headlines, complementary imagery and strong calls-to-action that provide key messaging to position customers to buy.

For example: benthebodyguard.com does a stellar job of storytelling through design. The moment you load his website, Ben will walk down the street with you–as he’s there to “protect and save you.”

Ben The Bodyguard

Content Design

Simply put, content-driven design is built around information.

You’ve got the content ready to go and have a clear vision as to how your website may look. If you’re having the website redesigned, this will be – hands down – the fastest way to creating a complete website. 

1. Why Content is King

We all know this expression because it’s true. Content is king!

And we’re going to let you in on a secret: It takes more than eye-catching design to convert a potential consumer.

That said, content (and design for that matter) can’t operate in silo.

Ideally, content should drive the design and how the layout, functionality and user interact with the website.

Convincing your consumer to do something happens when you educate them – and that’s the job of content. Think about content as a strategy. How can you convert customers and get them to buy, sign-up or try out your product?

It’s simple – research.

The design team uncovers the language your audience will adapt and convert to. Should your messaging be personal and quirky or should it take on a more professional approach? Strategy and research will aid in the discovery of setting the right tone and ultimately closing in on more leads.

Wired.com is a great example of a content-driven website. The design focuses heavily on information, as their end-user is there for content.content-design

2. Organic traffic

There’s no doubt: content and organic traffic have a direct connection.

The more quality, keyword-specific content on your website, the more it will drive traffic. Having cohesive, easy-to-read content and media-enriched content will greatly increase your website’s overall Google rankings. 

Some important factors to consider to increase organic traffic: 

  • Optimize your website for on-page SEO
  • Use appropriate headers, meta tags, titles and descriptors
  • Incorporate clear links
  • Share content on social media channelsOn Page SEO

3. UX Design Challenges

UX design is the process of designing to enhance the user experience while interacting with your product.

Designing without content can leave your business in a vulnerable position with lost opportunity on ways to capitalize on your audience.

With the content in place, however, your designer can foresee UX design challenges in advance:

  • When the content comes first, your design will hit the mark, enhancing the customer experience. Without the content, the user experience can fall flat.
  • With content, designers don’t have to use “Lorem Ipsum”, or native filler text, for designs. The problem with filler text is that it doesn’t provide accurate spacing of real content. It lacks the ability to connect with the design, leaving the design subject to change further down the road. 
  • With accurate content guiding design, the UX designers don’t have to create copy to ensure that there’s a relationship between design and content. In order to accurately prototype and deliver valid ideas, the designer needs content to understand the brand, products and services.

If you’re ready to work with a website designer, but don’t have content, look to the competition. Leverage their copy and use it as proto-content. Your competition is solving the same problem as yours, so use it to guide the website’s content.

Whatever you do, do not copy their content verbatim.

Conclusion

Determining whether to let content or design steer your website design isn’t always easy.

There are variables that designers, developers, marketers and content strategists must consider before taking either approach.

These could include:

  • The industry. Tech and gaming businesses may naturally fall into the design-driven content approach. On the other hand, academic institutions and research organizations will have strong informational content.
  • The deadline. If the turnaround for the project is short, creating the copy first will make the entire process move faster.
  • The audience. Solopreneurs selling a service can convey a cohesive message with a design-driven content approach. For example, designing a website that reflects your personality and character is a creative way to tell your story, as opposed to a content-heavy approach.
  • The intent. Is your goal to evoke an emotional response? Images often speak louder than words in this regard. However, if you’re audience is largely analytical, then pumping out lots of content will meet this goal.

Strategizing the website’s content and design is key in any industry; however, some businesses require more in-depth brand analysis and overall market research to determine the highest-converting consumer pathway.

Strive to find a UX designer who can think like a marketer, you’re in a good position.  

Share the approach you’ve taken for your website. How did you choose between design-driven content or content-driven design? What were the deciding factors? 

5 Step Guide To Establishing A Winning Brand

About Josh Coffy

Entrepreneur. Marketing Nerd. Life enthusiast. I am absolutely passionate about what I do. My goal is to inspire others to reach their true potential.
  • Chris

    Interesting Things !

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