Website design and content work together to make a fantastic user experience, and there are two approaches to combining them as a site is developed. The traditional approach places design first. The more modern approach involves content driven design, also known as a content-first strategy.
A design-first approach is pretty much what it sounds like. It is a strategy in which web design, structure, and aesthetics are determined first, and content is created afterward to fit within that design.
Conversely, a content-first strategy involves determining the content needs of a website, creating that web content, and designing around it. In other words, the design is based on the content required for website success.
Benefits of a Website Content Strategy
It’s natural to be excited about designing a new website. You likely have plenty of ideas about the color palate, which fonts to use, and all of the cool features you want to include. But if the importance of content in web design is placed secondary to the design itself, you’ll find yourself forcing information and functionality into a potentially unnatural, ineffective design. As you can imagine, there are several benefits to using a content-first strategy.
Of course, the design of your website will be memorable to you! You are the one who’s going to put thought and effort into creating it, after all. But as long as basic UX design principles are applied, website design isn’t memorable to your users. What will be memorable, however, is the information within and functionality of your site – i.e., your content and how it is accessed.
Users don’t come back again and again because a website looks great or has some awesome features. They come back because they find value in doing so. Usually that’s because they can easily find and understand the information they are seeking.
Flexibility in Design
This may seem counter-intuitive, as designing for content does limit options, initially. But putting content first means you can determine the perfect placement and aesthetic for each text box, graphic, image, and video instead having to fit them into pre-determined spaces after the fact. In this sense, establishing a content strategy for a website before deciding on design features allows for greater flexibility overall.
Effective Content Hierarchy
A content hierarchy prioritizes the information most important to users and makes that information easy to find. So not only is a content-first strategy more efficient from a design standpoint, but it is also more efficient from a customer service standpoint because it allows you to focus on the needs of your users instead of the needs of the website.
When you understand the needs of your website before it is created, designing with a content-first strategy reduces the necessity of alterations after it’s built. This results in fewer work hours for your developer, which usually results in a less expensive build.
Content Design Process
All of this information is lovely, but how the heck do you go about creating a website using a content-first strategy? And what’s more – what content should a website have, to begin with? The good news is it’s probably not as complicated as you think. You don’t actually have to create all of the content prior to designing your site. You just need to know what types of content to include and where it should be located.
Begin with your website’s organizational structure. Establish a hierarchy by creating an outline that indicates which pages to include on your website and where they will be found.
Once you have a general site structure you can determine what type of information to include on each page. This applies the same hierarchical principle used above to prioritize what is displayed on each page within your site. After establishing page structure, you’ll have a good idea of the type of content included on each specific page. All of this is important for your designer to know before they go to town.
For example, maybe you decide on a single page dedicated to each of the services you offer. You’ll then need to determine the type of information contained on each of those pages. Perhaps each page includes 200 words about the problem solved by the service, two video testimonials, a pricing grid, and a call to action – in that order. Sharing this structure with your designer gives them a great starting point as they strive to create the website of your dreams.
After each web page’s content design is complete, it’s time to dig into the nitty gritty. Here’s where you actually write those two hundred words, choose the two video testimonials to include, and format your pricing grid. In short, this is where you get creative and flesh out your outline.
Notes on Content Production for Websites
Effective content creation is both and art and a science. Don’t be afraid to invest time, money, or both into this step, just as you will for the design and development step of your site.
As you ponder your content, always keep the user in mind. What do they need to know about your product or service? Is your content easily digestible? Is there an effective call to action? Are you actually providing the information they need? The more you anticipate what works best for your users, the more successful your website will be.
Hungry Media Puts Content First
Hungry Media understands the significance of creating a well-structured web content design plan, and the role it plays in the success of your website. Our expert team has years of experience creating websites that not only meet the needs of users, but that help take businesses to the next level. Contact us today to learn about content-first strategy, building the website of your dreams, or anything in between.
contributed by Melissa Lucas, senior staff writer