What comes first content or design: The argument continues

Gone are those primitive days of just making a pretty looking website and stuffing keywords in the website content. Those old days of placing jumbled Latin dummy text—within design wireframes are on the verge of extinction. Fast forward 2013, it is all about designing with a content-out approach. It is now important to integrate content creation into the web design and development processes from the word go and focus on content and only content in the beginning of any design process.

What comes first content or design

Content-first approach is less driven by design elements and more inclined towards the content and requirements of end users. But what has triggered this change? Think about the mobile revolution. People use the web differently today. They access net from zillions of different mobile devices available, and it is about time to start thinking of innovative ways of designing the web to accommodate changing user preferences.

Design-first approach: Fast fading trend?

The recent onslaught of Google algorithms has made it clear that the focus should be on user experience and unique content. Well, and this is not the end, content needs to be informative and high-quality also.

However, in the mad rush against time and sheer obsession to exceed client’s expectations, designers come up with quick-fix solutions and throw up hastily made templates without content directions that fails to inspire trust among users. It does not create any significant impact on the overall brand value either. Today’s savvy users are demanding meaningful content experience be it on website or mobile apps.

Once you realize your mistakes it is about time to start with the rectification process. Now begins the time-consuming and tedious process of going back and forth between clients, designers, writers, and developers. Unfortunately, people are not always in sync with changes and things don’t always fall in place and fit seamlessly. This backward approach could prove to be costly and often the end product is riddled with terrible coding and hotchpotch look.

What comes first content or design

A clear content strategy outlining your priorities will help identify challenges and eliminate bottlenecks that could cost you money, mental trauma, and delay your website launch. Content-out design is not about which layout is the best to use, but instead lets the content decide which layout best suits it.

Here are few things to keep in mind while you adopt content-first approach

  • Think mobile first: The rapid proliferation of hundreds of internet-enabled devices with conflicting screen sizes and operating systems, makes it important for the client that content should be adapted for different devices. When you are designing around content, think about mobile. It will really help you focus more on content-out method. Remember both are driven by same concepts such as removing non-essential elements, enhancing readability, and strategically placing content. Intuitive navigation is the key approach.
  • Rise above clutter and eliminate distractions: Very often in a bid to get eye balls rolling, designers end up using irrelevant imagery. But does it serve any purpose? Not really. Irrelevant images often hide the content and serve as element of distraction, taking user’s focus away from the site. Rather come up with innovative design elements that accentuate the content. Rule of thumb should be to knock off design elements that sideline content.
  • Never assume, always rely on statistics: It is not a very easy task to gauge what is working for users and what is not. Just don’t rely on your instincts. Rely on analytic tools that can provide answers to your questions such as which part of the website content is most visited and viewed? What is most useful and needed? Content-out method is not just about focusing on content, but it is all about displaying the most useful content in the best possible manner.

Wrapping up:

While skeptics of content-out strategy suggest it is a cardinal sin to let content alone drive design. It’s impossible to view content and presentation from entirely different perspectives. The two often amalgamate beautifully to create something that is truly invaluable: clarity, relevance of purpose and meaning. Well, in that case wasn’t just letting design drive content a mistake? The key is striking a balance and not going too far with any single element. In the changing scenario, having clear content strategy ready from the very start makes the website development process run more efficiently. It helps you align user experience with your larger business goals.

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Author Bio:

Sebastian Atwell works for PerceptiveWebDesign, a leading company providing custom website design services for small business. He has worked on several freelance web design projects and believes that a well-drafted contract is a good foundation for a healthy designer-client relationship. Connect with us at Facebook and Twiiter.

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