Editor’s note: This post was originally published on 1/26/16 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehension.
It’s the age-old “chicken or the egg” question and your business must know the answer.
Does website design or website content sit in the driver’s seat?
Or more specifically, do you let the design drive the website content or do you let the content drive the website design?
There’s no doubt – content is one of the most important variables of stellar design. Whether you’re a website designer or a business working with a web design agency, 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 approaching a website project with a content- or design-first plan.
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. Website copy 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 – a designer will help with that.
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 a design based on a well-rounded, in-depth brand discussion on factors like company history, services and products, and target demographics.
Sure, content up-front is ideal, but not a necessity to get started.
If you're a web designer, create a “Client Questionnaire” and have clients fill it out to find out more information to streamline the design process, minimize time spent in meetings and ensure a stronger knowledge of your clients’ needs.
If you're a business, make sure the designer sends you a questionnaire or interviews you. (Below is an example of our client questionnaire.)
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 to buy.
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.
Website 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."
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 create a complete website.
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.
Studies show that a website that is lacking in its visual aesthetic but great content will convert users, compared to a visually pleasing website with really bad copy.
That said, website content (and design for that matter) can’t operate in a 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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.