Content-First: What Comes First, Design or Content?

1. Have you heard of Content-First?

Do you plan to update, redesign or rebuild your website? Do you want to redesign your business website because your content is out of date? You already know that the content of a website is one of the most important aspects when it comes to getting visits and conversions.

In this post, I am going to explain what it is and what are the advantages and benefits of adopting a Content-First approach in your web project and how it affects the design and development process.

Content-First consists of advancing the content phase in the development of the project. In this way, from the beginning of a project, the analysis of the content objectives, the volume, the audience, the tone and the characteristics of the same is approached. All of this will help you make better strategic, functional, design, usability and business decisions.

According to Cartoon Representation Of Yourself If you agree that the main purpose of a website is to display content, why are there so many web projects that still disproportionately focus on visual design and functionality to the detriment of or at the expense of content?

“Content first” gives the importance due to the content. Optimized, relevant and efficient content increases visitor attraction and engagement.

2. Why does the need for Content-first arise?

In the web design and development process, the content generation phase has always been a critical and problematic point. The generation of content has usually been assumed and thought at the end of the web process, once the design is done. In this way we lose the opportunity to make the best and most accurate decisions based on the content and we run the risk of not reaching the attraction and conversion objectives on the website.

The importance of content marketing and user experience has led to a review of how websites are developed. Our clients value content more and more. Today content is king and presentation of information is your castle.

By adopting the Content-First approach, we put content at the center of the web design process and the user experience. It’s about emphasizing content at every stage of the web design and development process. It is thus achieved that the content is not considered as what annoys the design, but quite the opposite, it is about giving due importance to the presentation and visual design of the same.

3. Benefits of Content-First

I explain the advantages and benefits of Content-First and how it affects the development process, whether it is a website, online store, landing pages or app. Thinking about content in all phases of the project brings benefits for the agency, the web project and the client.

  • It reduces possible delays caused by not estimating well the challenge that is the generation of content. Avoid delays in the launch of your project because the contents were not sufficiently prepared in the last phase of the project.
  • Avoid spending time and budget designing and building functionality and page typologies that do not fit the actual content.
  • Reduce iterations and “overdesign”. The fact that the contents do not conform to the templates and types of pages already designed forces us to go back to the design again and again.
  • Avoid problems that can arise in the later phase of the project, when changes and iterations are more expensive and costly.
  • It enables smart design decisions focused on content for a better user experience.
  • It guarantees us to develop web projects that the client can sustain, update according to their resources, sustainable projects over time, customer satisfaction, create trust, build loyalty, and lasting relationships.

4. Designing with “lorem ipsum” is not always a good idea

Not so long ago, before we took the Content-First approach to building web pages and projects, we were primarily focused on design at the expense of content.

We normally design and develop websites based on a limited or controlled number of templates or page typologies, which allow the site to be manageable, consistent, scalable and maintainable by the client.

If we first design and program the templates with fictitious or hypothetical text, normally we designers resort to the famous “lorem ipsum”, and then fill it with the real contents at the end of the project. In this way the content generation phase was normally left for the final phase of development.

And in this final phase, the resources assigned to the project – budget and time – are usually too consumed to deal with iterations, changes and improvements derived from the necessary adjustments between the design and the contents.

In content-first we apply practical techniques that help us to emphasize or take care of the content in each phase of the construction of a website. Think about the contents first, advance the preparation phase of the same to guarantee or pursue better results. In other words, putting content at the center of the design process and the user experience.

5. But… what comes first the design or the content?

Is it the container or the content you want to put in the container?

It is not simply a question of asking the client, or the person dedicated to the generation of content internal or external to the company or within our team, to generate all the content that is necessary on the new site, before working on the design of the different typologies. This is simply not the best, nor a solution.  It is highly unlikely that good quality content will be generated without the healthy limits of design. The design offers ideas on how to present the information, generates alternatives and types of content. In other words, the design parameters and models help to generate good content.

Alternatively, waiting until all the typologies of the site are designed and implemented before asking the client to generate the contents and upload them to the site’s CMS, is not the right thing either, as I have already explained.

To get the best result, the designer needs to have a solid, even incomplete, view of the content needs and its structure. And also the client needs to know some visual “clue” of how the content can be presented.

This means that design, functionality and content are developed simultaneously. It is a symbiotic process.

In this way, we insert a content or proto-content proposal into the visual prototype. These contents do not have to be completely validated. They can use the first version of them. We check in the design the suitability of the length, tone, personality, attractiveness of the titles, simplicity in the language and visual aspects of the contents. It is about thinking about the contents in each phase of the project to direct the best design decisions.

Thus, simultaneously, the contents are being completed and validated and the design typologies and page structures are adjusted until a balance point is reached.

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