Why Content Should Come Before Design
For a moment, let’s imagine a world of absolutes and break the web design process down to two possibilities:
- Design first, then write content
- Write content first, then design
It’s not much of a stretch. Some designers will ask you for all your content and then create a design that complements it. Other designers will tell you to hold off on the content; they’ll create the look they think you should have and then have you create content that fits.
One of these approaches is better than the other. As you’ve probably already guessed from the title of this article, it’s the content-first approach.
Before we talk about why, let’s clarify something. This doesn’t mean that every single word has to be written and approved before the design process can begin. Rather, it means that the primary pages of your website should be fully written and more or less ready to go before your designer starts creating the look and feel of your site. Will some of those words change? Maybe. But the overall message (as well as the approximate length) is firmly in place.
Content Shapes Your Design
When you create content first, you get a design that fits who you are as a brand. If you don’t have content, then your designer is shooting in the dark. There’s not a clear sense of who you are or who you want to be on the web. As they say in the online world, content is king. Design should be built around the content to make sure the king can do a good job.
If you take the design-first approach, then you're forced to create your king based on spaces your designer has created for you. With this process, the content plays second fiddle, and second fiddles don’t make very good kings. Your content writer will be forced to craft something that fits certain spaces, disrupting the natural flow of good content creation and preventing you from having the messages you really want on the website.
Avoid Costly Delays and Unnecessary Frustration
When you design based on content, you know exactly what your site is going to look like before you approve the designs. You see it laid out the way it will actually be. You know that your content fits on every page, and you know that it looks good within the design. In other words, you get exactly what you want.
If you design first, you’ll typically have to approve designs prior to seeing the content in its full glory. You’ll get designs filled with dummy content that won’t give you a full or realistic picture of your new website. You might think it looks good, but you won’t know because it isn’t really yours yet. Inevitably, this will result in changes down the road. As the site begins to develop, you’ll see a spot where your content doesn’t fit within the design you already approved. Or you'll start to notice that the layout doesn't really fit who you are as a brand. You’ll either have to adjust your content or change the design. Both of those are going to cost time and money. Your new website will slow down and everyone involved will become frustrated with the process.
Always Hire a Professional Content Writer for a New Website
Even if you have someone on your team who is a good writer, you’ll get better results if you hire a professional content writer—especially if it’s someone who works closely with your designer. When you have a professional content writer, you get a plethora of benefits you won’t have with an in-house content solution:
- Content that’s highly readable in web format
- Content that works well within the context of a quality web design
- Content that’s written in a consistent voice across all pages
- Content that’s written for your target audience
- Content that’s optimized for search engines
- Content that’s free of common grammatical mistakes and typographical errors
And let’s not forget about possibly the biggest benefit of all: if you work with a professional content writer who’s part of the web design process, the process will go much smoother and much quicker. You’ll get your new and improved website sooner with fewer headaches, and it will fit within your planned budget.
Put Content First
If you’re about to embark on a new website, make sure you put your content first. The entire web design experience will be much better if you do. In most cases, the content you have on your current site won’t work for a variety of reasons: it’s dated, it’s stale, it no longer reflects who you are or who you want to be. You need modern content for your modern design. And you need to create it in that order.