Content is King: Why Content-First Design Is Better

By Julie

Content is King: Why Content-First Design Is Better

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and get a website. Fantastic! Maybe it’s your company’s first real web presence outside of a Facebook page, or a redesign of an old, outdated website from before mobile design was a thing. Either way, you’ve done your research and decided to make this next step in your company’s growth. You’ve vetted a web design company, signed the contract, and paid the deposit. Now you can just sit back and relax while someone else does the work of putting together a modern, well-performing website for you.

Right?

Except your web design team has emailed you a list of deliverables they’ll need to make your website come to life. And there it is, innocently nestled between hosting credentials and mockup approvals:

The dreaded content.

They’re already asking you to write content? But you haven’t even seen the website designs yet!

If this sounds like your situation, your web design team may be following the principle of Content-First Design. In this post, we’re going to go over the basics of Content-First Design, why it’s great, and why you should really be asking questions if your design team isn’t asking you for your content up-front.

Content-First vs Design-First:
What’s the difference?

Content-First Design is when the content for a webpage is created before the webpage design. This can be everything from the text on the page, to the images and videos.

Design-First Design is when a webpage design is created with placeholder content — usually Lorem Ipsum — used to block out areas on the page where content is expected to go.

Now more than ever, you’ll hear design teams touting the importance of having content first, and design second.

But Why Content-First?

There are many, many reasons why Content-First Design reigns supreme. Let’s go over some of the most common.

 

Content informs design

Imagine you’ve been asked to put together a poster for an upcoming concert. What information would you need to get started? Maybe you want to know the name of the concert, or the genre of music being played. What about the venue, the admission fee, or headlining artists? What’s the vibe they’re going for: Chique nightclub? Cool jazz? Headbanging metal? How about the size of the poster? Is it getting plastered on the side of buildings, or passed around on Twitter?

Now, what if your client said “we don’t have that information yet; just come up with a cool poster and we’ll add in all the details later”?

Good luck, friend. You’re working blind.

When anything is being designed — from car ads to cereal boxes — its most vital task is to communicate information to the viewer. Yes, it’s important that the information is presented in a clear, engaging way, but the method the information is presented in should always be informed by the information itself. Otherwise, you have at best a missed opportunity to make a truly engaging website or at worst a disconnected, boring experience for users.

Hell, if the message is right, the design can be minimal to non-existent. Take this wonderful website by Justin Jackson Words by Justin Jackson for example.

Design at the end of the day is there to augment the content and lift it up. It can’t do that if there’s no content to begin with.

Content sets up the user’s journey

A good website homepage will tell a story. It will show users how a product can change their lives, make them emotionally invested in a cause, or raise the stakes on why a service is necessary. The homepage will entice users to keep scrolling, keep engaging, and eventually follow links and calls to action to other areas of the website.

Even the best website design is nothing without the words at the core of those messages. A good design can keep the users engaged a little bit longer, but it can’t convince them of anything without the messaging to back it up.

Content saves time and money

Whether you do the content first or the content later, the content will have to be introduced into the design at some point. You can’t launch your website without it.

(Well, you can, but having Lorem Ipsum scattered across your website is generally a bad look.)

If the design doesn’t work well with the content when it’s created, your design team may have to redo significant portions — and those extra hours can translate into more money spent by you! Starting with realistic content — even if it’s not the finalized content — can reduce the hours spent tweaking established and approved designs last-minute.

But I don’t have content ready! What now?

We get it; creating a whole website’s worth of content from nothing is a daunting task. Often, lack of content can be what completely stalls a web project.

How can you and your design team overcome this hurdle?

Use Proto-content

If you don’t have the exact content you want for your website ready yet, proto-content is like settling for ‘close enough’. Maybe the wording isn’t the best yet, maybe you don’t have your product pricing ironed out, but you probably have a rough idea of what you’re looking for.

You can create proto-content by:

  • Reusing existing website content
  • Copying a competitor’s content
  • Writing up your own sample content

The goal of proto-content is to reduce unknowns. If you choose to use proto-content, be sure to communicate this to your design team so they know you’ll be replacing the content (with something similar) later on. They might even have ideas on how to smooth it out into something amazing! If you make sure your design team knows your content is flexible, and clearly communicate to them your website’s goals, you might be pleasantly surprised with the results.

Takeaway

Your website’s content will inform everything from the site navigation and the structure of webpages to calls-to-action and button text — and ultimately, the journey your users will take on their way towards their goals. It deserves to be more than just an afterthought in your new website’s design. Web design has limitless potential, but the right content can make a good website into a great one.

The sooner you start implementing real content into your website design — or as close to real content as possible — the better your results will be.

Not sure where to start?

Talk with the Ankit Designs team to see how we can help elevate your content to the next level.

About the author

I'm a designer and programmer with a can-do attitude and a song recommendation for every mood. Good design is like music: it moves people. If at first you don't succeed, try again with a different soundtrack.
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