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The future of web design

Content-first: the future of web design

What comes first, the design or the content? Here’s why content-first is the future of web design.

4 minute read

What is content-first design?

A content-first approach is the process of examining the required content for a page and designing its layout and visuals accordingly. This method is often adopted to create a website that has a clear direction and a holistic user experience.

Content-first design recognises the importance of content (i.e., written copy, images, videos, downloads etc.) and its ability to drive users to a website in search of an answer to a question or solution to a problem. It also accepts that design is often the reason that users stay on a website. Therefore, the two need to work in harmony to deliver a holistic user experience that is clear, direct, and delightful.

Why content-first?

Pros for content-first design

  • Keeps users engaged – through storytelling and perfectly positioned content.
  • Good for SEO – well-structured pages and content put the users first while also making it easy for search engines to index.
  • Creates consistency – content-first improves the general flow of a website to create consistency from page to page.
  • Improves efficiency – reduces the likelihood of content not fitting later down the line and requiring additional design and development time.
  • Reduces the need to cut content – a design-first approach often results in content being cut or jammed in to fit the ascetics of the site.
  • Improves mobile friendliness – designing around content, screen space and what suits the user helps improve the overall mobile experience.

Cons for content-first design

  • Unbalanced pages – by not constraining content to a set character width or page length, pages can appear unbalanced, impacting the site’s overall ascetics.
  • Makes content creation more challenging – it’s often much more daunting to blindly produce content than a ‘fill the gaps’ process.

Designing websites with a content-first approach helps ensure that user needs are at the centre of the project and reduces the amount of time wasted creating redundant elements.

Steps to a content-first approach

When embarking on your new website project, we recommend following these steps to ensure you take a content-first approach that considers what your consumers need and what they want from your website before you start to look at wireframes and visual designs.

  • Define your site’s purpose – answer the following questions:
    • What are you trying to communicate on each page?
    • What story are you trying to tell?
    • What actions are you hoping users will take?
  • Conduct a content audit – what content do you already have? What importance does it hold, and what notes can you make that will help you determine its significance on your new website? Consider creating a spreadsheet with the following headings:
    • Page title
    • Navigation-link/URL
    • Content hierarchy
    • Content-type
    • Description
    • Notes
  • Conduct a competitor analysis – look at your competitor’s websites and ask yourself:
    • What messages are they communicating?
    • What key features are they using?
    • Who is their target audience(s) – is it clear?
    • How do they use visual design and content to communicate their brand?
    • What are the positive and negative experiences of their website?
  • Create your sitemap – outline the hierarchy of your pages and how they will sit in your menu.
  • Create an inventory of the content you want on each page – i.e., news articles, product information, reviews, promotional boxes, contact details, forms etc.

Once you’ve followed these steps, you will have a solid idea of what each of your page’s need (content-wise), the hierarchy of that page, your tone, page length, and what your key messages will be. You can then use this information to shape the user experience and create wireframes and visual designs that are content-led.

Overall, a content-first approach prioritises content and brand messaging above the latest design trends so that you provide a holistic user experience that delights users and generates conversions.

We hope you found this content useful. To find out more about how we can support your new website needs, please get in touch. Or, if you’d like to stay in the loop with our latest insights, register for our newsletter.

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