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Why we use the content first design approach

Baby chick that has just hatched with the words "Which comes first" underneath

Every developer has their own process for creating a website. The elements of the process, the timeline and milestones, are essentially the same from one company to another. However, the order can be very different. We use Content First Design, and here’s why.

Rather than starting the web development process with a fixed design, the content first approach starts with the content. Working this way shifts the initial focus to the information we want to provide and the story we want to tell. By first understanding what we want to convey through words and images, we can then map out the content in a thoughtful way.

What is content first design?

A List Apart founder Jeff Zeldman coined the term. He said, “In order to create the right layout and structure for any digital experience, you have to know what the content is first.” 

Rather than starting with a structure, we start with the content and build a structure that supports it. If the site visitor doesn’t get the information they need to help them make a decision, then your website is unlikely to convince them buy your product, become your customer, or find your website very useful at all. 

“When we treat content as an afterthought, we limit our ability to make good decisions and our sites fail to achieve their goals,” said Liam King, a UX and content strategy specialist. 

This approach is revolutionary

When we first started building websites back in the ‘90s, each website project would begin with a Photoshop mockup. To create these contentless mockups, we would use Lorem Ipsum text and stock images as filler. We’d get the draft layout just perfect and then we’d receive the final content. Inevitably, the number of characters for a heading would be too many or too few, and some page copy would be too short or too long. Maybe we designed four featured boxes on the front, and when the content arrived, we realized that was not a good decision.

When there isn’t additional time for redesign built into the project, important information can end up getting crammed into boxes and repetitive elements are used to fill up space. Content First Design ensures that every thing has its place and that space is proportional to its importance and relevance.

“Web design is an extension of page design, and page design is all about crafting the perfect paragraph. To craft the perfect paragraph you need to be working with the content.” – Mark Boulton, a UK digital designer

Why we use content first design

Designing without content is like asking an architect to design a house without any specifications. The architect will want to know, what is the location? Should it be open plan or separate rooms? How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need? Should the kitchen be eat-in?

Content is the reason someone visits your website. While the site needs to look good, few people are surfing the web looking for a beautiful page layout. They’re looking for information. And if they can’t find it quickly and easily, they’ll move on. 

A website designed with placeholder content may look fine, but it won’t be as effective as one designed with real content. A content first approach will provide a more positive user experience: usability, navigation, engagement and conversion.

If you have additional questions, visit our website development services page, call (518) 392-0846 or email [email protected]. If you’re ready to get started, tell us about your project by completing our online form.

2 thoughts on “Why we use the content first design approach”

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