Content or Design – Which Comes First?

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So the time has come to give your tired old website an overhaul. Sales are flagging, user feedback is poor, and web-based ROI is virtually non-existent. To get the job done and to do it well, you need a plan of action. But what should you tackle first? Content or design? 

What came first? The chicken or the egg? 

If you Google this quandary, you will be directed to plethora of websites. All of which will have different answers, and different approaches to the needs of their users. Here are our thoughts on this website equivalent of the chicken and the egg conundrum:

Design First

We’re fickle beings when it comes to the internet. If a website looks bad, we assume it is bad. And in a few short clicks, hey presto we find ourselves browsing the visually superior website of a competitor.

For businesses, the risk of a high bounce rate – when visitors leave your site after just one page view – is simply not an option. To generate leads online, your traffic needs to journey around your site – reading about your products or services, submitting an enquiry form or making an online purchase. Design is a major factor in achieving this – coaxing potential customers further into your site with strong branding and a professional finish. No matter how compelling your content, it will struggle to make an impact if the visuals are not there to begin with.

Content First

So we have established that the majority of internet users judge a book by its cover – or in this case, a website by its design. But if the branding is strong and the content doesn’t match up, this is just as bad – if not worse – than sloppy design.

Good content inspires a potential customer to form allegiance with your brand. It empowers them, providing the information needed to make a purchase or sign up to your services. Content also has an important role to play where SEO is concerned. Authenticity and originality is rewarded by Google, so perhaps content should be written first without trying to squeeze it into a pre-designed template.

This route is typically followed by C21, as discussed by Wes Clarke, “Generally, when creating websites for Client’s, they would have certain content in mind and design would be shaped around that … In most cases content is the immovable object whereas design can be more flexible.”

Tackling Both in Tandem

Unlike the chicken and the egg scenario, there is a way that both design and content can be tackled simultaneously. Information architecture (IA) is the art – and science – of understanding user behaviour. Considering the role that content and design have to play in driving conversions, IA is responsible for mapping out your website using what’s known as a wireframe.

Where should this button be placed?

 What wording is most likely to encourage a click?

 Should there be a sidebar, what should it contain, and why?

IA joins the dots – meaning you don’t have to choose content or design first. Instead, the design is created with content in mind, and vice versa. While the designers are being creative, the copywriters are generating content – and both have the same end goal in mind. In this situation the proverbial chicken and egg are, in fact, one and the same.

According to Martin Belam from the Guardian, “Information architecture is just one component in an emerging field known as User Experience Design. This recognises that a good digital service isn’t just about functionality. It is about how people feel as they use a digital service, and about the way it does things, not just what it does.”

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