Content First Web Design – What It Means To You

We came across this interesting post when looking around to see what was new in the world of web design, and must admit to being nicely surprised because it supports our view about the importance of CONTENT.

content-led-web-design

Web Design is important too of course, as you have to make sure the ‘look and feel’ of a site matches the target market place and offers a good visitor experience (be easy to navigate etc), but it is the content that will ‘sell’ the site to visitors

Horses to Water

This is a good analogy as good marketing (SEO etc) will bring people to the site, whilst the Web Design will keep them on the page (in the first instance). But it is the content that will keep the visitor on the page and get them to carry out the action that the website owner wants them too. Be this to buy some good, to fill out an enquiry form or just pick up the phone, in other words, the marketing and design bring in the horses, but it is the content that gets them to drink…

Content Just so Important

It is quite common in the web design industry for most sites to get designed first, only then is the matter of getting the traffic to the site considered. In our view the target phrases need to be ascertained FIRST, the site map (in part) being created from that data. These phrases are mapped onto pages and the words that Google want to see ascertained (through reverse engineering). THEN the copy can be created with the site being designed AROUND the target copy.

Creating the Site

Creating a site in this manner concentrates the mind of all parties on what the site is trying to achieve and at the same time gives it the very best chance of reaching its goals.

Please see the whole blog post on content led web design by clicking the link.

There’s this incredible shift that happened in the history of cinematography around 1970-1980. Before that point, a big part of a given film’s credits went before the actual film – “opening credits,” the name was.

You can see this in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. You can see it in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and countless other masterpieces (or is it just me enjoying westerns here?).

But then, there was a transition towards an entirely different look. If you go see Guardians of the Galaxy, for example, you’ll notice that it takes exactly 6:30 minutes before you get to see even the film’s title. And until you see the full credits? That’s 113 minutes – the entire length of the film.

You get action right away. The movie starts right away. Like there’s no time to lose! And looking at the title of this very post, you might already know where I’m going with this…

Yes, content first!

Films have been “content first” for years now, giving us what we came for right up front. Of course, you might quite enjoy that vintage style or whatnot, but you do have to agree that things have shifted in a more attention-grabbing direction.

But what about web design? Should we also think content first? Should we start with the content – or at least the concept of the content – when we’re working on a new website design, and treat that as the most important element?

[spoiler alert]

Yes.

We’re going to get into the why and how in just a minute, but if I were to summarize this in one sentence, it would be this:

Telling a web designer to work on your site without giving them the content is like telling an interior designer to work on your living room before you buy an apartment.

The benefits of content first design

  1. Content gives you constraintsAs web designers, we’re constrained by nothing.I mean, sure, there are screens. There are resolutions. But those aren’t real constraints. You can still make your design a zillion pixels long if you want to. Well, okay, there’s maybe the RGB pallet that’s somewhat limiting when it comes to the possible color range that you can use. But your eye isn’t capable of seeing more colors anyway, so that’s not really a constraint either (unless you’re mantis shrimp).But content, on the other hand, does impose some serious constraints and limits your creativity in a certain way.

     

    Or maybe “limits” is not the best word, but it puts your creativity in a confined box and forces you to operate within that box.In a very real web design scenario, you will have a specific volume of content to work with. A specific number of headlines, sales messages, body text, and etc. With all that, you can plan out the graphic part of the design better, and thus make sure that every individual piece of content simply fits like it should.

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  3. Content first design is better for the storyEvery website has a story, or a message that it wants to convey to its visitors. This all connects back to the goals of the whole website, the brief that the client gave you, the niche it’s in, and so on.But at the end of the day, to be able to resonate with its visitors on any level, the website needs a core (and good) story.And it just so happens that content – and text content in particular – is much better at storytelling than anything else.

    Even though a picture is worth a thousand words, text is always going to play the most important role on any website.

    The content-first approach in web design focuses on storytelling – on making the design a tool to tell the story, and not the main focus in itself.

    In the best case scenario, you need to have the story straight before firing up Photoshop, and then design around that story, instead of building a design prototype and then trying to hack the story into it somehow.

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  5.  Content first gets rid of many further-down-the-road problemsIn a traditional web design setup, it’s very common for a project to go back and forth multiple times later down the road, once the real content needs to be incorporated.Very often, we find ourselves in situations where that final content doesn’t fit at all. Or is of the wrong format to be showcased effectively. Either way, as a result, we can be forcing ourselves into having to redesign multiple elements of the website completely, and effectively do the work twice.If you think content first, you’re removing this possibility altogether. Starting with the content, you’re making your work more effective time-wise, and in many cases also more optimized for the site’s goal and purpose.
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  7.  It improves your chances of building a mobile-friendly designThis one’s a long shot, but bear with me.I’ve been talking about the importance of mobile for quite a while now (1, 2). The fact is that mobile is still growing rapidly, and that for many people, their phones *are* actually their main “Personal Computers.”For that reason, making your website design mobile-friendly is even more important than making it desktop-friendly. And I stand by that statement wholeheartedly.

    Now comes the kicker. Mobiles still don’t – and probably won’t – have enough of screen real estate for you to work with. Hence, we are forced to fit the most important pieces in a very limited space.

    Content first just works for that. The whole idea of content first is to build the design to fit the content perfectly and to make that content even more noticeable. Maybe somewhat as a byproduct, but content-first thinking makes it easier for you to make the design responsive and to scale well on mobile.