Which Should Come First: Website Content or Design?

It’s the age-old question: in building a new website, which comes first, the content (the chicken) or the design (the egg)?

In truth, content and design should work in a collaborative and aligned fashion during the web design process, but the most effective websites have content primarily driving design decisions, and not the other way around.

Don’t get me wrong, as brand and web designers, we will be the first to tell you that great content is nothing without a great design supporting it (and vice versa). That being said, we never start designing, especially for our web design clients, without having clarity on content direction.

Here are a couple of reasons why content-first design sets clients up for success.

Content-first web design prioritizes what actually sells the product

It’s important to remember that design and content should serve as equal partners in great web design, but they provide fundamentally separate functions: content delivers the message, and design strengthens the message.

Well-crafted content informs and entices a user to take a desired action. Content production in a web design project also helps ensure that the website contains the information a client needs to understand who the business is, who they are for, what they are selling, and why they are worth the investment. In other words, content sells the product or service.

Design itself does not sell. It enhances content by presenting it in a beautiful and thoughtfully-crafted structure. When done well, design helps web content flow, makes it easy to digest, and helps emphasize key information and conversion opportunities. Designers can also help advise on areas to modify content for improved visualization or to further help guide users to convert, which is encouraged so long as it takes place early in the planning process.

As you can see, content and design have a symbiotic relationship, but the content provides the blueprints for a messaging and conversion-centric website.

Content-first web design limits unexpected design changes

Some designers and developers move forward with designing, or will even build out full website experiences, without having even the nuts and bolts of content in-hand.

Why is this a problem?

It’s a problem because designing without content inevitably leads to missing elements and required rework of the design to fit the content after the fact. In addition to costing both parties a great deal of time (and time is money), this can also lead to less-than-optimal website flow and clunky code. Sure, last-minute edits can and often do happen, but planning design around established content will reduce those instances substantially.

Think of it as trying to put together a piece of furniture with a manual (content-first) versus without a manual (design-first). Sometimes it works out, but more often than not, steps are missed somewhere along the way and the builder has to backtrack to course correct.

Content-first web design better supports organic marketing efforts

If you aren’t thinking about your new website as an opportunity to boost your organic performance, it’s time to shift your mindset.

SEO, or “Search Engine Optimization,” is the process of improving your website so it’s more accessible by search engines, and thus more likely to be found by users searching queries that are relevant to your business offering. It is a critical digital marketing channel, and one of its core components is content.

Design-centric websites notoriously lose out on SEO opportunities, as when content is planned early in a web design project, there is greater opportunity to not only prioritize your messaging strategy, but your SEO strategy as well. This means more visibility of your website in search engines, and thus more organic traffic to your website.

Want to know more about our web design process?

While both content and design are critical in the development of a successful website experience, it’s time to let go of design-first processes and start with content.

Our web design process is developed with this in mind. We have a dedicated time for the client to collect website content during onboarding, as well as to review the content structure and opportunities for improvement as a team before designing starts. We also have amazing copywriting and SEO partners for clients who could use a more full-service approach!

If you’re ready to enhance your website experience and drive more sales with quality content and design, inquire for a web design proposal today!

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