Why Good Website Design Starts With Content-First!

Which should come first, design or content?

If you’re planning to have a new website created, this is a question you’re going to need to address right at the start of the process. The desire to have something visual to look at means it can be tempting to brief a designer first, getting them to come up with a concept before you give any in-depth thought to content.

But going about the process this way around is not the best route to developing an effective website. Putting design ahead of content is like trying to create packaging when you don’t even know what the product is, or asking an architect to plan a house – without telling them how many people are going to live there, or detailing any specifications.

It’s a recipe for wasting time and money that will result in design having to be scrapped completely or radically altered to accommodate content. Even worse, it could lead to content simply being shoe-horned into the design – compromising any aspirations to a great user experience.

It’s for these reasons that many web designers – including ourselves – are embracing the concept of ‘content-first’ website design.

What is content-first website design?

The concept of ‘content-first website design’ is the idea that in order to be able to create the best possible solution, a designer has to know about all content before they begin work on a web project. It’s based on the rationale that a website has to combine form and function – and because it’s content that informs and drives how the site works, there’s no sense in starting without it.

Content is not just copy, it’s any media that needs to be integrated into a website, and can include things like graphics, images, illustrations, video and audio.

Key benefits of a content-first approach

  • A smoother design process, saving money & time

From the outset, all parties have a clear vision of how the site will work. Using real content wherever possible will eliminate numerous iterations and help keep the project on track in terms of budget and time.

  • A better user experience

Having all content in advance, and understanding the hierarchy of different elements enables the designer to plan the site’s information architecture to deliver the best possible user experience.

  • A more effective website

Adopting a content-first strategy ensures that a website is designed with the user and content at its centre, with the result that its effectiveness is optimised.

Here at Studio 18 we live in the real world, and we know that expecting to have all content in our hands before we begin work on a website may be a tad idealistic. We appreciate that it’s not always going to be possible for many reasons, but this won’t stop us aspiring to content-first as a principle.   

In any case, it’s not essential that a client gives us every single piece of content in its final form before we make a start; what is crucial though, is that we have an inventory of all content – and if a piece of content doesn’t yet exist, we at least have something to reference.

Once we have all the content – actual or otherwise, we will be in a position to start mapping out a content strategy, determining the relationships between the different elements, how they work together, how they are prioritised over each other, and how they’re integrated into the overall website design.

Let’s make content-first website design work for you!

If you have plans to create a new website, we’d love the opportunity to tell you more about the advantages of adopting a content-first strategy.

Contact us now for an initial chat and find out how we can work with you to deliver a website that combines great design with a great user experience!