Content is too important to be an afterthought

Typically a new website is a design-led process. You work on a detailed brief, you consider various styles and aesthetic approaches and designers produce beautiful mockups with fake content. You decide on a design that you think works, build a working website and then someone thinks about the REAL content, changing those Lorem ipsum bits of text is usually the process. But what if it turns out that the content doesn’t fit the design? This can lead to solutions that are either awkward (forcing the content to fit) or costly (rejigging the design). So is there a better way to approach things?

Giving equal weight to content and design considerations throughout the web development process is a much more efficient and effective way of working. They are both key components in terms of communicating your message, after all, and a really successful site should be informative and usable as well as visually appealing.

There are lots of reasons why we believe that content should go hand in hand with the design when developing new websites:

It can help you avoid delays and extra costs

A very common problem – which can throw a web project completely off schedule – is the underestimation of the time it takes to write and collate content. This can cause huge delays in the launch of new websites, as well as incurring extra costs. The problem can be avoided if the content is being mapped out and generated right from the start of the project. Another potential issue, as previously mentioned, is when the uploaded content doesn’t fit in with the layout or structure, and costly redesign work is necessary. In a nutshell, working with content and design at the same time helps minimise the risk of nasty surprises.

 

Your site will be more targeted to your audience

Having a proper content strategy in place right at the start of a web development project will help ensure that your site is pitched squarely at your target audience. The more content your designers have access to, the better they will be able to understand – and therefore reflect – your brand. A strategy will also help establish the hierarchy of information on the site. What’s the key message you want to get across? What journey do you want people to make through your site? All of this informs the structure and design of the site.

 

 

Your site will look more professional and perform better

Designing a website around actual content – rather than mock content – means that you won’t end up with weird dysfunctional pages at the end, with either too few words (on pages that turn out to be redundant) or too many words (on pages that would work better broken up into sub-sections). A website with properly structured, relevant content on all of its pages will be more user-centred and professional-looking; it will also perform better in terms of SEO.

 

 

Your site will work better going forward

Keeping content at the heart of your web project rather than as an add-on at the end will help future-proof your site. A robust content strategy will help inform the design so that there is a place for ongoing updates as well as archiving of material, if applicable (eg events, press releases). A website with static, unchanging copy will soon grow stale and ineffective, so it’s important that yours is built to allow you to maximise the potential of content marketing (see our recent post on this – ‘Content marketing: the key to success’).

 

 

Putting content at the heart of web development

We’re not saying that you need 100% of your content to be generated and finalised before design work can start, but it’s really helpful if certain elements are in place. These include a strategy (which can be quite basic) as well as content for key top-level pages – particularly your homepage (NB don’t forget that content isn’t just text, but also images and videos). The rest can be created and adapted along the way as part of the development process. You don’t even need absolutely all of your content signed off and in place for your launch; using a CMS like WordPress means that you can easily add and edit pages when you’re ready.