Content-First Web Design Projects: Why They Work Best

Insights
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Web Developer/Engineer
Nov 2, 2020

As a web design and build shop, Integrity is accustomed to creating or redesigning websites from start to finish. 

The web development process is intricate and has a lot of moving parts. One of the age-old questions, not unlike the chicken or egg debate, is: which comes first — the design or the content?

How Design and Content Work Together

The answer to that question isn’t totally clear-cut. There are many points in the web development process where design and content go hand-in-hand.

Early on in web design projects, after we’ve conducted our audits and discovery, our design and content strategy teams come together to create the information architecture (IA) of the site. This includes the navigation, sitemap as well as content buckets on each page. 

For instance, we may know generally what a page is going to be about, and can therefore map out the rough sections and calls to action on each page at this point. This also makes the content development process that much easier.

It’s important to design a website that is easy for users to navigate and move through. The IA must also be driven by content to ensure the placement and nesting of content is logical. 

Why Content Comes First in Web Design

It’s no secret that design and content influence one another greatly. But when it comes to a new site build, providing or drafting ready-to-go content before the UX/UI designer kicks off the design phase — and definitely before a web developer begins their work — ensures that the project is set up for success. 

Makes Design Process Smoother

Lorem ipsum is convenient, but it isn’t always the best solution. 

By setting up the content buckets, and then drafting the content to meet those design requirements, SEO best practices as well as the project goals overall, the designer can then create a beautiful site that is shaped by and works harmoniously with the copy. 

Often when design occurs first — or simultaneously with the content production — there is a disconnect between the design and content. The design should be inspired by the content on the page and work hand-in-hand with formatting.

In addition, even if you create rough character counts for sections in a design, the actual content in most cases is going to fall short of the character count or exceed it. This means that the designer will often have to restructure the entire design to work on desktop, mobile and tablet.

Speeds Up Development Time

Next, when the content and design are handed off to the development team, development can start right away without having to fill the site with placeholder content. This allows developers to fully finish sections of the build without having to go back and fill in final content post-development.

One of the biggest challenges our design and development teams encounter during web design projects is making significant content edits after design is done and while development is taking place. 

Something as simple as putting real copy where there used to be placeholder text in a call-to-action button can become a big headache. The height of sections may need to change, the actual layout of a page could change, and in the end, we’ll likely see an increase in development time. More development time means more expensive projects and, in extreme cases, possible deadline delays.

Creates a More Meaningful Site

It’s near impossible to craft a user journey if the design is not driven by the content. Placeholder text does not give designers or developers enough context or meaning to efficiently complete their desired outcomes. 

Content-driven design ensures users are going to have a better overall experience and better overall user experience drives more conversions and sales. 

How to Prepare Your Web Content

Drafting content is a tedious and, often, daunting task, but don’t worry — we’re here to help. Every project, and every client, is different. Sometimes our clients already have a site full of content to use as a starting point. Other times it’s a from-scratch process. Often we collaborate with our clients to develop website content. And sometimes, they relinquish the writing to Integrity’s content strategy team.

By using tools like GatherContent, multiple team members can work on content at the same time and move it through the approval process. It also keeps a revision history, so you can see how content was changed over time for reference. GatherContent integrates with WordPress sites as well, which makes it simple for populating your site.

Part of our discovery process is interviewing key stakeholders and subject matter experts to get a better understanding of the company’s goals and services. This drives the sitemap as well as the content. 

Of course, there may be edits down the road — but these issues are usually addressed by using a flexible and easy to use content management system to build the website. Content-first projects alleviate the heavy lifting on the front end of the project and provide users with a content-rich experience.

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Are you looking to partner with a web design company that excels in content strategy, UX design and web development? Get in touch with Integrity.

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