published October 3, 2017
When you're building a website, you need it to look and sound good, right? But which is more important? And which should you focus on first?
The battle for whether content or design should be King has been raging for many years now, and the casualties have been high on both sides. The copywriters have been penning death threats to the design teams, who have, in turn, created beautifully elaborate traps to ensnare their enemies....Ok, maybe it hasn't gone that far just yet. But it IS an important question to consider when you want to create a great site.
But just as the age old debate about the chicken and the egg, no-one can really decide which should come first. We got both sides to lay down their weapons while we try to figure out a peaceful resolution to end this war...
Why design should come first
"You don't get a second chance to make a first impression"
We all know that on the internet, things move fast. People have forgotten how to wait for things, and their attention spans are shrinking year by year. If a potential customer finds their way onto your site, and is greeted with dodgy design and terrible layout, they won't stick around for long. You only have a few seconds to grab their attention, and they will make a decision about your site before they even have a chance to read your copy.
If you were served a plate of grey slop, no matter the waiter told you was inside it, would you really want to eat it? I know we're all told not to judge a book by its cover - but come on, we all do anyway. We are visual creatures, and if we're faced with too much text, we tend to switch off. Designing a site before writing the content means we can dictate, and limit, how many words are on each page. We are the generation of Instagram – visual aesthetics are integral in our life now
Why Content should come first
First, let's clarify exactly what we mean by content. It's not all about the copy - content should include graphics, video, audio, and text and, having all these elements in place first helps to speed the process of design along. The content is likely to go through at least one revision before its ready, and if it needs to fit into the design from the start, this can mean hacking away at words that need to be there, or adding in text breaks that don't.
Having the content first can also help to guide the design to optimise the content within the site. For example, if the site owner likes to use quotations a lot, the design team can build some beautiful quote boxes to fit within the text. Knowing what kind of content is going to be on the site regularly means the designer can build a site that will always look beautiful.
Starting with design can also lead to real problems when the copy arrives and is a completely different length or layout from what is already in place. For example, you may end up with a design that allows for a 50 character section of text, and instead, you have 50 words to squeeze in. As beautiful as a design is, if you are looking to capture leads from your site, the content needs to be there, and needs to express your company’s message.
"Design, in the absence of content, is just decoration" - it's like when you meet a beautiful person, who can't form a single useful thought. Do you really want to be spending time with them?
The Battle is Won
It's clear to us that a website can't exist without both sides of this battle working together. But only one can sit on the Online Throne, and we're bending the knee to Content. But, what we propose is not a death match, but a marriage. We need both houses joined together in order to build a strong and beautiful website. So, House Wordsmith, do you take House Adobe to be your lawfully wedded wife?
"Content is King, Design is its Queen"
And, just like the chicken and the egg, neither can exist without the other. When you next need to build a website, just remember this workflow and you'll have peace and harmony in your kingdom
1. Wireframe - keep the lines of communication open, and create a wireframe that clearly states what content will go where on the site
2. Content creation - this should be based on the wireframe structure, and should be reviewed and re-written as necessary
3. Visual design - Using the copy you have, build the design around both the wireframe and content, review and revise
And then bam! You've got yourself a well designed, easy to use, and clear website. Or, of course, you can do it the easy way and just get us to build it for you.
Like how we spin a story? Check out the rest of our Magazine.