Content First Design

The typical process that a web design company follows…

  1. Meet with client.
  2. Discuss business, the goals, the target actions, and so on.
  3. Create a project plan to meet business goals.
  4. Start design.
  5. Get design approved.
  6. Code theme for CMS.
  7. Code functional business logic needs.
  8. Train client on the CMS, let them add content.   (with an add on service, a client might get copy writing done at this point too.)
  9. Publish live.
  10. Start marketing up-sells.

This process, as is, leaves client’s feeling like the site is never really completed. Like it somehow just isn’t done. The designer’s response will be, “a website is never done”, that you must always be working on improving it because that is what your competitors are doing, and it’s what your customers will expect.

The truth. Both are right.

The solution. Write content first.

To some this will be old hat.  To some it will be like, “why haven’t we always done it this way”.   Then to others it will be, “that is a stupid waste of time”.  Sure it might be controversial if you’ve always worked on themes with placeholder content like,

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Praesent dignissim nunc eu leo feugiat, at pellentesque purus consequat. Vivamus sed eleifend tortor.

The problem with placeholder content is that it shows you what something will look like, but doesn’t tell you if the actual content will fit the design.

Content is King! 

This does NOT mean that design is un-important.  If content is king, then design is of course the robe, and who want’s to see a naked king?

That said, content has to come first. The underlying message, the words that change and motivate is how sales and marketing works. The design communicates the importance of those words.

Please, if you are a designer, know that your clients will be much more satisfied if you work with real content.  If you are a business owner, tell your designer the message you want your customer’s to hear, and more importantly the message that they need to hear.  Don’t be vague about it, be specific, and detailed. This will remove one variable from the web development process and every unknown that is taken out makes the whole project just feel better.

Content is the hardest part!

Now this might ruffle some sensitive feathers. But let’s be honest, everyone thinks their job is the hardest job.  If you’re the sales person, then you’re the center of the universe.  If you’re the designer, if you’re the copy writer, if you’re the orchestra conductor, if you’re the violin player… you believe you’re what all other parts revolve around.  In many ways you should think this, it makes your role important.  However, when you’re the copy writer you’re right.

Yes, yes, yes… everyone works together.  The car engine doesn’t go anywhere without the wheels, but the wheels go nowhere without the engine.  The parts are interdependent, of course.  Any movie director will tell you though, you can make a bad movie with a good script, but you simply cannot make a good movie with a bad script. The point is…

Content Gives Understanding!

That’s right! If you give the designer the content then they will understand the message hundreds of times better.  This will make your design better, and the client happier to see their message come alive.

For your next web design project, switch up the process so that it’s in this order…

  1. Meet with client.
  2. Discuss business, the goals, the target actions, and so on.
  3. Create a project plan to meet business goals.
  4. Write content.
  5. Start design.
  6. Get design approved.
  7. Code theme for CMS.
  8. Add content.
  9. Code functional business logic needs.
  10. Publish live.
  11. Start marketing up-sells.