It’s an age old chicken and egg question… which comes first when developing a website – content or design? You could argue the case for either one. However, I would argue that having a content strategy before you design your website is absolutely crucial to your site’s success.

Whether you’re kicking off a redesign of your website or you’re developing a brand new site, take some time early on in the process to identify what your content strategy will be. This is important not only with the content on the site but also with the content used to promote the site in social and other channels.

Here are 3 reasons why…

1 – Content forces you to look at your audience more thoroughly

If you’re designing a new site, you need to know who your audience is. Sure, you can develop some user personas; this is certainly a useful exercise. But, try going a bit deeper. Content can help.

As you start laying out your content strategy you’ll notice different themes that show up again and again. Using a whiteboard to map this out is incredibly helpful.

Start listing out the pieces of content that will make up the bulk of your site. Group those in terms of their themes or categories. Then take some time to rank these themes in order of their perceived importance to your target audience.

The conversation around this will be very revealing. Because as you categorize and prioritize your content you will start to realize how you must communicate your message to your audience to see any sort of success.

Doing this helps you to determine what information is going to be most important to your user. This will eventually translate into your site’s visual hierarchy and layout… design.

2 – Content sets the tone

While assembling your content in the process detailed above you’ll start to see some big picture themes emerge. Maybe your content has a serious tone or maybe it’s more fun and lighthearted. The themes you map out will speak to this.

Knowing the voice of your site starts with the type of content you’ll use to fill it. Your design elements will support this. The look and feel of a site really matters when setting the tone. You certainly don’t want unicorns and rainbows if your site is about business insurance solutions.

Designers are great and can do amazing things with a web presence. I know. We have a few in our company. They can make something amazing out of literally nothing. Here’s the problem, you do not want to leave it entirely up to them what your site will look like (little secret, neither do they).

Designers want to design something amazing and innovative. Left to their own devices they might miss the subtle elements that will make a world of difference to your target audience. Knowing the themes and ultimately the tone of your message will help the designer to design specifically for your audience and your goals. That’s the difference between design and effective design.

3 – Your content supplies your outposts, design ties this together

Of course any website today needs a marketing strategy that goes beyond the “if you build it they will come” approach. You need to promote. Social media is great for this. Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn – these are your outposts. Your website is your home base and where you want your audience to end up.

Knowing your audience and knowing the themes you wish to promote will help you to develop a solid social media marketing strategy. But what about design?

Mapping out your content should be done with branding in mind. Your organization’s brand should translate across multiple marketing channels. And this all needs to emanate from the look and feel of your website’s design.

If you don’t know your audience, know your message or know what design elements will support that, how can you effectively promote your brand and your organization across social channels? You could, but it will not be as effective.

Don’t make the same mistake that your competition is making. Develop a solid content marketing strategy before you even think about redesigning your website. The project will go smoother and the results will speak for themselves.

Do you agree or is content overrated (trick question)? Let me know in the comments below.

Our copywriters are top-notch. Let us know if you need some help with your content.

Jon-Mikel Bailey - Before co-founding Wood Street in 2002, Jon worked in sales, marketing and business development for technology and marketing firms. A popular speaker, he gives seminars on marketing, internet marketing, branding and web design to chambers of commerce, trade associations and colleges. He has a BFA in Photography from Frostburg State University and still shoots photos for Wood Street clients.

8 Responses to “3 Reasons Web Design Starts with Content
  • Could not agree more Jon.

    Without content, a designer would ask: “OK.. so… what should I design… like… what’s going to be on the page…?!”

    One way to understand the client’s content requirements is to make them draw wire-frames…

    That way, they are forced to think about the content that’s going to fill the screen.

  • Message
    Excellent post!! I totally agree with your message, Jon. Many companies have not clearly defined their unique selling proposition, and what truly sets them apart from their competition. Therefore, it’s hard for them to describe how their product or service will solve their client or customer’s problems, or give them the experience they are seeking.

  • Hi Jon, interesting take but one that makes a lot of sense, particularly if you don’t work in a creative field, yourself. In other words, content is also a better place for the average person to start. Thanks for sharing – Niall

  • Hello Jon. I agree and personally believe that content is the foundation to building success. The content on your website is what sets you apart from others. Thanks for a great article.

  • Hi really nice and informative post. Content is said to be King of any website hence, it should be given prime importance. Content is the most important part of any website,and a site is virtually meaningless without it. Thanks for sharing such a good post.

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