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Design is the chicken and content is the egg

We often work in projects where we are both redesigning a website and reviewing its content. In cases like these we ask ourselves: which comes first, design or content?

There is no single answer valid across every assignment. The industry that the client operates in is one of many factors that can affect if their website is more information-driven (which means we should start with the content) or design-driven (which means we should start with the design). The goals of the project are also important – if we want to quickly evoke emotions, it may be best to start with visual design and imagery.

Do we have to choose?

If we have a project that is neither very information- nor design-driven (which is often the case), do we have to choose between content first or design first, or can the work be done in parallel? Many people promote a content-first design approach, which has several advantages:

  • The design process can be less expensive. Having the content means the visual designer won’t have to revisit their sketches when the content changes.
  • It makes the content writers’ work easier as they can focus on tonality or writing for a target group or goal rather than making the content fit into an existing design.
  • Giving finished content to the designer may influence the style of design and help them choose appropriate colours, images, typography and so on.

Proto-content

Usually, the content work is much more time-consuming than the design. This means it’s common for designers to have to work with unfinished or no content. And here’s where you should pay attention: instead of using generated text like lorem ipsum, use proto-content. Without it having to be finalised and approved, proto-content will give more context and get the design working in the right direction.

Proto-content can be:

  • Current site content
  • Draft content
  • Competitors’ content

Compared to lorem ipsum, proto-content is better equipped to show where the design breaks, providing earlier opportunities to fix problems.

Proto-content also allows for content and design to be tested together. Whether you’re testing how the design looks on different screens or getting a rough guide on how users will interact with the text, proto-content will take you a lot further than lorem ipsum.

The chicken and the egg

So why is design the chicken and content the egg? A good design – the fluffy, cute chicken – will catch our attention and make us want to continue reading, scrolling. And interesting, problem-solving content – the egg – leads us to take actions like clicking, liking, signing up.

This doesn’t answer the old-as-time-question of which one comes first, but it sure shows that the one cannot be without the other if you want to create a successful website.

 

For more information on how Comprend can help you work with content, contact Charlotte Naversten at charlotte.naversten@comprend.com or +4673985557.

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