Creating Better Design with Content First Approach

It doesn’t matter if you’re designing a new app from scratch, or working on a new feature or creating a landing page. Designs should begin with the content first approach. There are multiple advantages to this. Adopting this approach, you’ll automatically end up creating brilliant websites or products.

If you’ve been in the world of web design for a while, you must have heard of the concept of “content first.” In this post, we’ll discover what this approach is all about, and provide an example of content-first design in action.

The Basic Understanding of the Content-First Approach – How the Process Works

Content-First Approach

Ideally, all the departments involved in developing a product or a website come together to coordinate until the project is over. And this isn’t only meant for developers and designers, but also for those who conduct research on the consumers and those who create content.

To begin such a collaboration, all the departments involved must have a solid understanding of who their target consumers are, their needs and objectives for using the websites or products. This is a vital aspect to understand how you can communicate with your users by emulating their language and tone.

Using a content-first approach, they begin by presenting conversations that they would like to have with their consumers through the website or product. They may address questions like “Why did you get here?”, “Where would you like to go next?” or “What are you looking for?”

The content creators work their magic with words while maintaining focus on the user’s intent and mindset. The content can be reviewed and perfected with the assistance from the real consumers. Then the implications and limitations imposed by content on the designs are made clear prior to full mockups, and prototypes are developed. The content-first approach alleviates a designer’s frustration by removing parts of the redesign phases.

Together, the professionals associated with a project decide on significant design elements that influence the legibility and readability of content like colors, line spacing, typeface, links formatting and so forth. These are factors that could make or break a website or product. The consumers tend to interact with your product through the content. When you emphasize the content first, it becomes inevitable that you are putting the consumers at the center stage.

The Shift from “Lorem Ipsum”

Lorem Ipsum

Most of the people belonging to the web development industry are familiar with Lorem Ipsum. But its objective as placeholder text to maintain focus on the graphical elements of an interface already seems passé.

After all, nobody downloads an app or lands on a website just to check how beautiful or well-crafted it is. Your website content is vital, and your design needs to reflect this. Not just in terms of selecting typefaces with the appropriate personalities that are a perfect spokesperson for the brand, but also in having content as part of a serious design issue. Adopting a content-first approach requires moving away from the good old Lorem Ipsums.

Content Offers the Full Picture

Often web designers prefer looking at the full picture of how all content is ultimately driven towards a common objective. Content should come with a proper content strategy, which should, in turn, benefit the defined marketing and business goals, like generating 10% more leads over the next few months.

Now designers can play around with some pieces of the larger puzzle. For instance, the objective of driving 10% more leads, and come up with specific design ideas or layouts that will move people to a particular point of action. But that’s just one tiny aspect of a much more intricate system.

Design and Content aren’t Linear

When we discuss whether to focus on content or design-first approach, what we really mean is that one happens before another. But this shouldn’t be the case. Just like the stage of content strategy, the process of ideation works well for both sides at once. Content writers and designers leaf through ideas about how to resolve the problems of the consumers and meet business goals in an apt way.

When content writers and designers work in a fluid, non-linear fashion, it not only helps in maintaining the right expectations for all the departments associated with the product or website development, but it also eliminates what could be the points of contention down the line.

Make Sure to Plan Early for Content Types

Content cannot only be associated with chunks of texts as it can take the form of charts, lists, infographics, e-books, videos, white papers, streaming audio, and so on.

“One thing the design and content teams should do together is deciding on the particular type of content that will be associated with the designs from early on”, suggests Peter Whitaker, an academic expert on assignment help. This enables the designers to begin working with content ideas earlier in the process of designing the website. And it helps them to envision how they play off of each other to engage audiences, regardless of the content format.

The Power of Storytelling through a Content-First Design Approach

Power of Storytelling

Preparing the appropriate content to go with the designs will allow you to figure out a few things. First, what’s the minimum that’s required for the page to be successful? Deciding on the contents before drawing up any pixels or wireframes will make your life easier as a designer, as it will force everybody to agree on the content and copy.

It’s an entirely new area when you’re finally designing after learning the kind of content that will be involved. Second, it will enable you to figure out whether the elements within the specific content are apt for the project at hand.

Approach your website like a movie. The content would be the lines spoken by the actors. Now imagine the scene, if Ryan Gosling whispers words of love and admiration, and at the same time, hides out from a psycho killer in his grandfather’s attic. The plot seems confusing, right? Discord between your content and design can result in similar types of confusion among the visitors.

Now great content kicks off with a great story. With this approach, the designers get to focus on the overall user experience and the story they want to convey to the visitors or customers. The same is applicable to the content as it turns out to be a part of the design.

In this case, you need to start by asking yourself, what’s the story of this client or project? What issues the visitors or consumers are facing? What is their ideal outcome?

Once you come up with a good idea of what you are going to convey through your story, start writing. Begin with the development of the content as you’d imagine it to be on the website, and make sure to structure it properly. Each webpage or screen will carry its own purpose, and you need to work on that too.

Then each of these pages can be divided into different sections. These sections too should come with definite objectives.

Next, write down what will be included in those sections, right from the headlines to the last link. If you’ve been offered content by a client or another team member, use those details if you find it appropriate and fitting with the overall narrative.

While preparing the content, just focus on using your own words. Either way, get feedback on the work you’ve done and edit till you are happy with the result.

As you prepare the content for each page of the website, you will be able to notice what the website is starting to look like. The user flow will become all too obvious for everyone involved. Additionally, the more definite the content structure, the more you’ll be able to assess if this is the appropriate story you’ll be telling.

Why Do You Need To Adopt The Content-First Approach?

Adopt The Content-First Approach

The content-first approach is an excellent way to consider for web developers and designers when putting together a credible website packed with all the goodness that the consumers expect. So presented below are some of the reasons why a content-first approach must be adopted.

  • Collaboration and Consistency: You may be familiar with the adage, “many hands make light work,” and that’s specifically true for content planning and creation. There may be things that designers understand, but copywriters don’t, or strategists know, but front-end developers don’t, and so on. Hence, to detect the issues quickly and find opportunities, proper collaboration across different departments propels consistency. That way when everyone is on the same page, it decreases or eliminates unnecessary confusion.
  • Efficacy: By applying real or proto-content in designs and prototypes, you’ll become familiar with the potential challenges sooner. And also be able to address them immediately rather than waiting for weeks or months (or years) down the line. So, a lot less time will be devoted to iterating on design and content, as the team will have already discussed the issues together while working on the content creation.
  • Reusability and flexibility: Rather than considering digital experiences as forms of pages and individual elements, perceive them in terms of multi-faceted frameworks, or a cluster of solutions, that can be combined and remixed as and when required. In this way, more products can be created that are flexible and have a long shelf life.
  • More interconnectedness within the departments: Content-first means sharing insights across departments from the very beginning. Now each department will come with important insights to offer at different stages, with varying levels of intensity. This means we’ll all be in more meetings, and that the right conversations with the right people.
  • Simple and clearer guidelines: You may feel more restrained in how creative you can be when it comes to the design. But you need a firm structure in place and a story to build upon when designing and developing a website. By preparing the design around specific content, you’ll no longer have to alter a design to fit in the content that blatantly contradicts it.
  • Better quality of content: With content-first design, you’ll not have to ask your writer to tweak or add fluff to the content, since what was written doesn’t fit the pre-approved design. Your website’s messaging can be saved in its intended, and original state as you creatively form the design around it.
  • Increased consistency: When each element is developed individually from one another, there tends to be something missing in the union. The content may get edited out, designs can get restructured at the last minute, or the story may turn out inconsistent. Content and design should be used in perfect collaboration with each other as a whole, and that can only happen when content comes first.
  • Boosts productivity: The design-first approach to web development doesn’t just result in conflicts between the stories depicted on-site. It also leads to conflicts between team members as content creators look at the story from one angle, and the designers follow another. Rather than wasting time establishing which angle makes more sense, you retain your productivity by collaborating logically on your site’s story.
  • Allows for a more streamlined process: The process you carry out now may seem convenient and efficient, but if you’re not developing your websites around solid content, then you probably have to grapple with unpredictable project timelines and scopes. You’ll be astonished at how convenient it is to streamline your process with this content first approach.
  • A higher margin for profit: If you had to predict where your business loses the most monetary resources and momentum, would it be accurate to say it comes from the client? They may not like how something’s written. They may not find the design works with the messaging they made you revise. Or they may be unhappy about how long all this took even though they asked for more revisions. If you frequently entertain grievances or revision requests from your clients, a content-first design will lower the wastage of time and allow you to focus more on creating well-planned websites.

Content, web design, and development are all closely associated with each other. With a little strategic approach, developers and content creators can bring in this union to success.

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  2. I so appreciate this article! It is informative and inclusive and it offers much needed “further explanation” of something that can be confusing when not given context. Thanks so much for those of us new to certain ideas and much of the terminology used today.

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