Content Before Design

by James

When we develop websites we always try to make sure that we shape the design of the site around the content and not the other way around, but why do we do this? Content is, at its core, the heart and soul of any website. Content is the way we convey information to the user, and whilst design can reinforce this information or make it easier to understand, it’s not what defines a website or any piece of content on the web. There are also a few other notable reasons why content is important such as the advent of voice controlled apps and technology or the use of text-to-speech technology to aid those with disabilities. For these reasons it’s important to understand the parallels between content and design and how it affects the web design process.

In order to build a contextually relevant and eye catching design, you first need to understand what exactly it is you’re trying to accomplish and how that relates to the websites overall theme. Writing / drafting up some content can often help you do this by bettering your understanding of the target audience and what potential customers / users will be looking for. Content isn’t limited to just text, you also need to consider the imagery, colour, and font that you will be using to ensure it remains consistent with the client you’re representing. If the content has already been provided, it’s still important to read through it and brainstorm how you can display that content in a manner that both looks good and makes contextual sense and give feedback to the client on potential improvements to the supplied content.

The content is also integral in creating flexible content for a given website. Based on the content you can determine whether that content should be appended to the flexible content for a page or kept as a unique element on one page. This basically means identifying content that is contextually relevant for more than one page (or place) on the site and using flexible content to display it. An example of this would be a general call to action for your contact page, the client might want to use this in multiple places and move it around accordingly. Conversely, something more unique like a “Meet the Team” page with a gallery of all of the staff members of a given company is something that probably wouldn’t have any place in other spots on the website so it doesn’t make sense to make that element flexible.