A Content First Approach to Web Design

When you are starting a new website project, there are many things that you need to take into consideration. Things along the lines like, “Where will the site be hosted?” or “Does the client want to use a CMS?” Beyond that, you will also think, “What should it even look like?” So often the last element that we think about, and often forget to think about, is the content that goes into the website.

Beyond Words

Content plays a major role in a project and effects more than just the messaging that is used on the website. Content is also more than just the text that you see on a page, it is all of the pieces of media that are used to put together the puzzle of a website. All of these content pieces can range from photos, videos, buttons, and even forms. Like any puzzle, you always need to make sure that you have all the correct pieces before you start putting things together. Otherwise, you will get to the point where the finish line is visible, only to realize that things are missing.

Establish Marketing Goals

When taking the content first approach, it gives you the opportunity to work with your client and really flush out the pages that are needed, as well as the goals of those pages. I always find it helpful to have a conversation with a client and really gain a solid understanding of what the key marketing goals are for their website, as well as the key interactions that they would like to see users make. Once these items have been defined, you can now envision the site as a whole.

Break It Down

The next steps would be to take a more a granular approach with the key pages on the website. Knowing the goals of each – or most – of the pages on the website, you can then discuss the puzzle pieces that you will need for each page to help create an environment where the client’s goals can be met by the users that are visiting the webpage.

Incorporating Web Content Into Web Design

After the puzzle pieces have been defined, this is now where knowing your page goals comes into play. Your goals will help guide you in creating the hierarchy of how the content on the page should be arranged. Once your pieces are in place, your pages should be ready to begin the design process. If you have the luxury to be able to work with the actual page content, your designer will be able to create an even more accurate mockup of your page designs that will in turn, alleviate any layout changes once the project has been moved into development.

Time Now Saves Time Later

A content first approach to a new website project can sometimes feel like it is slowing down the overall process, but really, it helps a project move along much more smoothly. Working to define goals, key interactions, and content hierarchy in the early stages of a website are key because all of the deliverables at this point of a project’s lifespan should be low fidelity where there isn’t much impact to making large changes to these types of documents. Once a project has been moved into the development phase, making large changes to a page or the website as a whole can result in a lot of time reworking what you have created so far.

When the Puzzle Becomes a Picture

Your probably wouldn’t title a book before writing the story, nor would you start cooking a meal without having all of the ingredients. Knowing the types of content that you are working with beforehand and understanding the goals of your client should help you and your team create more accurate page layouts with fewer edits made in the development phase of your next project. Having the key objectives in mind will, ultimately, result with an overall better website.