At Imagine Monkey, Inc. we have a team of experts in branding, content, and web design for small business websites, which means we’re also experts in content-first design. Despite the name, content is not more important than design, but is intertwined with the visual design of the site. Without content, there is no design, without design, there is no content.
“The irony of this communication challenge is that the main goal of content strategy is to use words and data to create unambiguous content that supports meaningful, interactive experiences. We have to be experts in all aspects of communication in order to do this effectively.” — from “Content Strategy: The Philosophy of Data” by Rachel Lovinger
Many web design firms are great at design. But they often create websites with no eye for content, which can hamper your message. Imagine, if you will, a simple homepage with a main column and one side column on the right. What’s the sidebar for? What kind of information can you put in there? Or conversely, perhaps you receive a homepage with only one column, but the designer didn’t take into account the need for extra information or links, pull quotes for testimonials, etc., and now you’ve wasted your designer’s time (and your money) by not taking into account the content you need for your homepage.
“When you ask a designer to design without the content that will be used for the final site you may as well be asking an architect to design a house without specifying the number of bedrooms, ensuites, kitchens and bathrooms.” — from RESPONSIVEDESIGN.is
With content-first design, we need to know what your business’s core message is. What do you stand for? What services does your business offer? How do you help your customers? From there, we can break down your content needs. For existing sites, that may mean a content audit (or content inventory). Do you have unnecessary content? Are you missing key elements to your content? For new sites, we may start from scratch.
And then the design element sets in. Let’s use the previous 2-column homepage example. The width of the columns depend on the length of the headlines and content we plan to create. Rather than Frankenstein-ing the content to fit a too-small sidebar or creating extraneous homepage content to fit into a too-large main column, we communicate with the designer to present your content in the best way possible.
That’s just the basics of content-first design. But there’s a lot more to it: communication between designer, content strategists, and the client; branding; the use of negative space for effect; and more… but that’s quite out of the scope of this introduction.