Why Content Comes First

In any design project, content comes first

One of the big changes I’ve made in how I do websites and other design projects for clients is to request all of the content for the project up front. Let’s talk about why.

Designers Design Content

The most obvious one is the very definition of web design. When designing for the web, or designing a layout for a brochure, flyer, booklet, or postcard, what I’m doing is not just creating some pretty thing you can fill with art. Well, some designers may do that, but it won’t necessarily work as a good design.

You see, good design isn’t about lovely artwork that enhances your content. Good design means arranging your content in a user-friendly, easy to read layout to maximize your message. In short, the content determines a huge part of the design.

Good design = arranging content to be user-friendly to help your message Click To Tweet

You’ll Only Know Your Needs Once Content is Written

The most important first step to any web design project (or really, any design project at all) is understand the purpose of what you want to be designed. What do you need this to do for you?

Most of the time, especially with a website, you’re not going to really know what you need until you sit down and write content for it.

Yes, “Content Comes First in Web Design” Applies to Bloggers Too

This became even more obvious to me during the last web design project I worked on before implementing this particular policy.

A client had grand ideas for a blog design and what her blog content was supposed to be. We’re talking about 20 different categories, hundreds of tags (all of which were supposed to be arranged in drop-down menus and graphics), changing headers for different categories, and so forth. It was ambitious.

The website continues to sit today, about five years later, largely empty and with links that lead to nowhere because she hasn’t even gotten around to writing for all of those categories, tags, subcategories, and so forth. Besides that, with changing technologies and touch screen smartphones, the menus are now (5 years out) impractical and annoying. And I’m saying this despite designing them!

As she started writing, she started realizing she didn’t need each category, or that some of them could be combined. However, the menus were created, and graphics implemented, and she didn’t want to go back and change it all. The design worked for the content she intended to write, but not the content she actually wrote.

My Content Rule for Blog Design

Obviously, as a blogger, you can’t create all of your content. The very nature of blogging is constant content creation.

What you can do, however, is have all of your key pages written (more on that in other posts), and at least two or three posts in each category written. Don’t worry, you can backdate your posts so it doesn’t appear that they were all written on the same day, even if they were.

This simple rule helps you to really see what your blog posts are going to look like, instead of me just inserting some Lorem Ipsum placeholder text. It’s much more effective for web design that works with the content.

Avoiding Delays at the End of the Web Design Project

Finally, the other reason for this rule is to avoid the inevitable delays at the end of the project.

For some reason, every potential design client truly believes they will just kick out that content before the design part is done. And, for some reason, that never happens. I’m usually left, as a web designer or brochure designer, putting other clients on hold while I wait for the final copy to come through.

These delays cost me money, annoy other clients (who usually turn around and do the same thing at the end of their project), and cause an otherwise straight forward project to drag out for months.

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