The Benefits of Designing Websites with a Content-First Approach

When you create a website, the first thing that you think of is how to draw visitors to your site. Most of the time, designers focus on the design and the technicalities and leave anything related to content in the last phase. To state the obvious, businesses need websites so potential customers to find information on their products and services. Thus, relegating content to the background should not be how things are done – a website should ideally be designed around the content, not the other way around.

The Content-First Strategy

The “content-first” concept doesn’t mean you sit down and work on the website only after your client has finished producing all the necessary content. Rather, it means prioritizing the site’s content over and above any of the other factors involved in the process. So, instead of drawing up a dummy or layout filled with placeholder images or the ever famous “lorem ipsum” (or filler content), using real content is ideal. It doesn’t matter if the content is just a rough draft; just as long as it’s real content that will be a good guideline for the site’s flow and design. Adopting this strategy will help both the designer and the client make better decisions that will ultimately lead to the achievement of the website’s (and the business’s) goals.

Historically, the majority of clients have expected their web designer to work on the design first and then put content in the final phase, and while that can be done, it’s not going to be the smoothest process. The following points highlight the benefits of adopting a Content-First strategy.

1) Content is king. No matter how beautifully designed a website is, if the content is of mediocre quality, the website won’t make waves online. With a Content-First strategy, more focus will be given on content; thus, it will be easier to come up with relevant and high quality articles, blog pots, etc.

 2) A Content-First strategy saves time. A Content-First strategy is equivalent to efficiency. In other words, the website will be finished on time. Because you prioritized content first, gathering the assets from the client and determining their value to the site will be easier, especially if optimization is also a priority. Less time will be spent on design iteration because the designer and their client have already discussed major factors while working on the content. Additionally, it will be easier to deliver design mockups that conform to the vision or goals of the project.

3) Since the Content-First strategy saves time, the client also saves on both administrative and development costs. Knowing the content up front helps prevent change-orders towards the end, which always increase costs.

4) Communicating with the target audience will be easier because content is the central focus. This means more clarity in emphasizing the functions and goals of the website. Visitors are there for the content, sure, the design has to be great, but dazzling them with the design or style and other “special effects” will often drive the attention away from the content.

5) Great content helps build a good online reputation. Branding is more than just a logo, your content is a just as important part of your brand. A good reputation also means credibility and influence, which also translates to more visitors and more returning customers. Thus, with high quality and relevant content, your business’s website will be trusted by many.

6) Work will follow a more consistent flow. Who doesn’t want a project to go smoother and be turned around more quickly? It’s a win-win!

7) Lastly, when you work with a Content-First strategy, you also prioritize the audience (aside from the product or the business) because you focus on what they need and want. Remember, people go to websites to find content that matters – make sure yours is a valuable as possible.

So, if you’re ready to use the Content-First strategy, you have a few main options. You can write the content yourself and provide it to your design team, you can hire a professional copywriter, or, if you’re working with a full service agency (hey that’s us!!!), they will often offer professional copywriting and/or content strategy services. If they do, they should have someone on staff dedicated to doing just that. Regardless of the path you choose, make sure you are working with someone who’s great at writing, editing, and most importantly: understanding your business and your customers. Oh, and don’t worry about getting it 100% before development – you can cross the t’s and dot the i’s later via your CMS.

To make sure that things work out as they should, we often spend a lot of time with our clients to help map out and and explain the process with them. By clearly defining all everything that needs to be done, and getting the main content done first, the web design and development process will be far more productive and harmonious.

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