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Design your content as a product

Sunday, November 16th, 2014 by Servage

Designing Content FirstWe are not always focusing much on content and giving it enough attention during our web design process. If we would treat content like one of our products, our approach might change and we would think of the content’s design, packaging, and marketing aspects in more detail. Therefore this post aims to focus your attention on content-production so you get more value from it.

The general problem is the way that web design is usually structured. The entire process is actually not very content-friendly. The normal procedure is often that initially a business stakeholder identifies the need for a new or refreshed website. The next step is a web designer or consultant starting to lay out the foundations of the project. This is often from the perspective of a visual draft that evolves into wireframes of various pages. Many projects start out with a Photoshop design – and focus is on great looks, modern UI, cool logo, and lots of other visuals – but content is often neglected. Coders take over as soon as the visuals are accepted by the owner, and upon their finalization of the site comes the usual question: What to put in all the content placeholders used across the design template (you probably now the good old Lorem Ipsum sample texts frequently used by web designers)? Professional businesses will probably turn to marketing people to get good content produced for their site now, but the problem remains that the content is created to suit the design – not the other way around. However, everyone always runs around yelling “Content is King!” . So the fundamental problem is that it apparently somehow has become a general conception that web projects start with visual planning instead of content planning.

Integrate content from the beginning

If you would treat website content like any other product, you would recognize its importance and give it room from the beginning. Therefore always start thinking about a new website by thinking about the message you want to send and how that translates into content, specifically text, images and other media. Only then you start planning the visuals – always paying attention to the content-goals you initially set out to follow. It’s easy to loose yourself to nitty-gritty design details and forget all about the message. Remember that color-selections are usually less important than choosing the right words.

Build content while designing

When you are designing wireframes or prototypes you can use real content in them – so there is really no need to get started with all the Lorem Ipsum. It’s really just a bad habit for lazy designers not caring about the real importance of content. While you build content and evolve your design around it, you will see that you actually achieve much better synergies. The end result will be better design that suits your products better – because you didn’t have to fit the content to the “smart” layout afterwards, but actually built the layout to “smartly” showcase the content.

Display content effectively

You will see that no matter how well you end up planning and building content together with the design workflow, you will make mistakes or change your mind about certain design or content elements. And there really is no shame in that. It’s not even wasted time, because usually doing something twice means having learned a lesson. However, you can professionalize this process by using structured mechanisms. For example if you settle on a couple of variations for important parts of your site, but only make up your mind after split-testing them. What you achieve here is a professional choice instead of an amateur guess. Make use of this to display your content effectively and increase your conversion rates.

References & more reading

Design your content as a product, 3.7 out of 5 based on 3 ratings
Categories: Business, Guides & Tutorials

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