What comes first, content or design?

When you’re planning to create a website or upgrading your existing one, you might be thinking, “what do I do first, the website content or design?”

Content always comes first. But there is one step before writing your content…

Planning your website!

Kicking off your website project in the right way will save you three important things – time, hassle, and money.

And because you follow the right steps, you’ll see customers staying on your website for longer and converting from prospect to customer.

First step: Plan your website pages

Decide what pages your website needs. 

To do this, you need what’s called a sitemap. Your website sitemap forms the blueprint for the build and is a visual representation of your website’s structure/architecture.

A sitemap shows the hierarchy of the website pages and how they are interlinked.

Content first in website project - Website sitemap TJ Creative

You can establish the types of content you’ll need, together with certain interactive elements that help users to navigate your website.

To get started with your sitemap, you’ll need to consider these questions:

  • Who is the target audience for your website?
  • What do you want the website to encourage people to do?
  • What do your customers want to achieve from your website?
  • What is your business’s tone of voice?

Create customer personas to shape your pages and content. 

Take some time to draw out who your customer is and what information, reassurance, and guidance they need from your website.

Then you can link their pains to your solutions.

Without personas, you’re creating a website for no one. 

Go ahead and download your customer persona template to get started.

Get a customer persona template

Now for the moment you came here for… why website content should always be before design.

Website content before design

Website content must always come before a design. Your designer will thank you for it!

A director wouldn’t make a film without a script.

A builder wouldn’t start building your house without an architect’s blueprint to work with.

So why should a website designer try to design your website without any content?

There’s so much thought that goes into creating an enjoyable experience on a website. You have a message for users, and you’ll need content to convey it effectively.

After all, a few seconds is all that separates someone on your website from staying to check out more on your website, or leaving and going elsewhere. Content will play a big part in that decision.

Why would you restrict yourself to your business’s important messages? Trim out content to fit boxes, rather than working on content that truly appeals to your website users and gives them value?

The content-first approach (where form comes before function) is one that doesn’t just benefit websites. It helps to drive the right narrative for your brand online to connect with your customers.

Content inspires your designer, not just your reader.

Content informs the design.

Why you should create website content first

There’s many reasons why you should create content before designing your website.

Here are the most important ones. 

Focus on your message

By starting with the content, you can really focus on conveying the message you wish to get across in the best way.

A copywriter needs complete flexibility to make sure they write the content in the most compelling way to get your reader’s attention.

Content-first compels us to prioritise the order of content importance, and begins discussions around which formats suit each piece of content the best.

After all, the fanciest design won’t overlook the fact that the message sucks.

Content dictates design

Your content has a huge part to play in your website’s overall design.

When the content is complete, the design will be dictated by your content.

You’ll get a stronger looking website that’s effortless to browse when you provide high quality content to your designer.

Limits creativity

Being restricted to a design can make creating content difficult.

The last thing you want to do is clip your copywriter’s (or your) wings – especially if you’re limited on your content.

Ensure you have complete flexibility to get your message across in the very best way – the design will then bring the content to life.

Delays rollout

Not following a content-first approach will delay your website rollout.

I’ve seen it so many times. Leaving content to the end of the build massively delays the website going live (and its effectiveness when it does).

Simply because everyone ends up running around like a blue-arsed fly trying to pull some amazing content out of their blue-arses.

Content being an after-thought on your website is like going to do a food shop and forgetting to actually put food in your basket, and paying for it anyway.

A content-first approach enables web developers to begin creating components for designers to create layouts from. Working in this way allows the entire team to work collaboratively and problem solve quickly.

Not to mention going live as soon as possible.

You’ll find that content-first means: 

  • Your brand’s message doesn’t have to be limited just to suit a design
  • Designs don’t have to be tweaked to accommodate the content
  • The website designers aren’t waiting for content to complete the project

Content isn’t just copy

Content is an overarching term for various types of media that combine to tell your brand’s tale.

Think about it, it’s:

  • Images
  • Product demo videos
  • Blog posts
  • Testimonials
  • Infographics
  • Every little detail needed for your website

This is why content comes first.

It’s better for SEO

The user experience and usability of your website is essential to your SEO success.

Great SEO relies on content, but it also weighs up how someone interacts with your website.

To make sure your users stay and engage with your new website, you’ll need quality content and a easy-to-use website.

You can still get inspired for your website design before content is written

We’re not advocating that you create all the content before even thinking about the design of the website.

What we are saying is that content comes first, closely followed by design – working in parallel is the dream.

You can still explore looks and feels before your content or whilst it’s being written, just don’t get your designer to start wireframing anything before you have content.

They could start by working with the colour scheme of your brand for the website, just not any layout work just yet.

The importance of content design – what is it, anyway?

Before we wrap this up, let’s take a moment to consider the term content design.

Content design is focused on user psychology and experience. It’s focused on using words for functionality.

It’s all about writing and structuring content in the right place and at the right time to give users what they want and encourage them to take action on your website.

Successful content design is effective from every single angle of your website – ensuring that the content is easy to find and consume, and that there’s a clear path to the next route.

Content design involves several steps:

  • Researching your target audience to understand their needs.
  • Creating a content strategy that aligns with the goals of the website.
  • Developing a content plan that outlines the types of content to be created.
  • Determining how the content will be presented.
  • Creating and testing the content to ensure that it is effective and meets the needs of your audience.

But what if the content is holding up the website design?

We hear you.

High quality website content that helps to make website designs stronger isn’t always straightforward.

That’s why content writing services like ours exist. Seamless link, we’re sure you’ll agree.

Start with content – your website designer will thank you!

Get content, design a website, get it built in one fell swoop

Designers prefer to work with content. I’ve worked with at least thirty different designers in my time and they all prefer to have content before designing anything.

Respect the power of content. Let us take care of your content. And let your designer focus on what they’re good at, design.

Otherwise, you’ll have a website design filled with Lorem Ipsum… and no one wants that.

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