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The Content-First Approach to Web Design

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Animated pencil writing content on an animated browser.

Posted on 07/02/2018 at 08:47 AM

Content is the foundation of a website. Users do not visit a website to look at the design elements—they visit your website to find your content and learn more about what you do. 

The content-first approach establishes a process of designing based on content; giving context and meaning to the copy, instead of distracting from it with design. The relationship between design and content is intertwined. By starting with the building blocks of content before creating the design, you allow the opportunity for your content to naturally guide the flow of a website. 

Getting the Right Fit

By creating a prototype without knowledge of the content that will be displayed, it can quickly become a game of “fitting a square peg into a round hole” as you struggle to fill a wireframe. This can produce a disjointed and out of balance webpage that may not do the content justice. 

However, by holding off on the design, you will avoid issues in your prototype—like a navigation menu that is too small to fit all necessary links, a header that is too small for the logo, or not enough places to feature images. There is no need to place a design constraint before you have a general idea about the structure of the content. For instance, your designer will be forced to spend extra time revising a design that was originally featuring four columns where only three were necessary.

Responsible Responsiveness

With the prominence of mobile website browsing, the content should remain the same—it’s the design that should be variable and change according to screen size. 

Consequently, the design is shaped by the content. Responsive websites have a great responsibility to put content first for optimal usability. Mobile design should function as a way to give hierarchy and clear navigation to the website’s core content. The content first approach makes designating hierarchy more efficient and natural, especially on mobile.

Deliver High-Quality Content

With a design first approach, you risk having to request that your writer (or yourself if you are writing the copy) either cut down on or pad content in order to fit the design. This means you are forcing your messaging to be shorter or longer than necessary. 

If you focus first on content, you will be happier with the quality of the copy you produce. Your users will also appreciate that your content is clear, complete, and provides them the information they need in the most efficient way. 

In Summary:

The thought of first creating content and then defining an information architecture may seem overwhelming. However, the content-first approach doesn’t necessarily mean that all content must be nailed down permanently without the flexibility of revisions. 

A content inventory can be as simple as an outline of all pages and their general summary, list of top-level navigation items, information to be included in the footer, and other important features like contact forms, news feeds or products listings. 

In the long run, you’ll be saving yourself time and headaches by placing content at the foundation of your website design process. Trust us! Your users will thank you!

If you need help or have any questions about how and where to start building contents for your website, contact us today!

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