Building a website is like building a home, clients get excited about colors, accents, etc but no one thinks about the most important thing and that is the foundation. The foundation of any website is your content. Content is why users visit and stay engaged on your website. Without content, you have nothing. Knowing what you have or what you will need will determine the layout and flow of the website design. Without any type of structured content building, it will involve more time and more design iterations.
So what is content-first design?
A content-first design approach is just how it sounds. The content of your project determines the design of your site. So take an inventory of everything you will need for your project. Content is not just copy. Content includes items such as photos, charts, tables, video, audio… any element that you think is important that needs to go on the screen or page is content.
Content Drives the Design
The more content you have the better the design process can be. Knowing what content you have gives the full picture and also defines how you will meet your target audience’s needs and achieve your marketing goals. Your content is what will drive who the audience is, what the topics are, where the content needs to be. It establishes the hierarchy of the content. The design can now be molded to fit the content and not the other way around and the design can highlight the content. The content-first design approach also allows for the most amount of creativity since the design is no longer constrained by the function of the project but rather the content itself. This also allows for more time to be spent on the design since the design is not the most time-consuming part of the project.
Avoid Tons of Revisions
When you design based on content, you know exactly what you have and what it will look like because you know how the content will fit on the page. If you design first you will have a design that is filled with placeholder text that will need to be updated with new content that could change the way the design and layout looks. This doesn’t give a full or realistic picture of the new website. Yeah, it might look great but the design is not going to be final. Without the real content in place, there will most likely be changes down the line. As the process starts you will begin to see where the content doesn’t fit within the design that is in place so you will need to adjust accordingly. This will cost you time and frustration. To avoid some of this be sure to start with as much content as possible to make the design process much smoother.
We Don’t Forget About Design
Just because we are starting our focus on the content for the website, does not mean that we are not brainstorming ideas for the overall design of the website. Certain aspects of design are driven by other factors that should be considered when designing the content of the website. The branding colors and fonts, the demographics the website is intended for, and the personal preferences of the client all get tossed into the mix, but all of these factors revolve around the content.
We will usually plot out the content layout using Wireframes to give us an idea of how the content should be presented to the users coming to the website. These wireframes are the blueprints for your home and are essentially the outline of the site. This helps us make sure the content is in order and introduced in an appropriate way to the visitor.
As tempting and exciting as it may be to start with the design first, consider your content. Content should always be the priority because just like building a house, the content of your website is the foundation. The content-first approach not only serves your audience’s needs but it provides a more positive user experience. A content-design first approach lends itself to a smoother design process and fewer revisions.