UX, Web & Brand design by Stuart Gamblen

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5 Reasons You Must Write Website Content First to Get the Best Web Design

“My way or the highway because I know best!”

Ouch! That hurts to read, doesn’t it?

But it’s the exact attitude hundreds of small business owners face when creating or updating their websites.

What comes first, website design or content? This single question has stirred much debate.

So how do you weed out the my-way-or-highway attitude? And what’s the big deal with what comes first?

The Content-First Approach

As a freelance professional providing both graphic design and web design services, you’d expect me to say design always comes first.

And you wouldn’t be alone.

But here’s a surprise for you. As a designer, I’ve worked the process both ways and I’ve designed…

  • Without any clear website content…
  • Around planned website content…
  • With written content ready to publish…

…and here’s what I’ve learned:

Content-first design creates the best user-experience and whats best for your users is best for your business!

The most important single thing is to focus obsessively on the customer. Our goal is to be earth’s most customer-centric company.

Jeff Bezos, Founder & CEO – Amazon

Don’t get me wrong. Good design is essential, and it’s growing more important by the day thanks to the explosion of mobile users and Google demanding mobile-friendly websites.

But the websites that provide the best user experience and get the best results write website content first and then use design to present that message in the most business and user-friendly way.

They don’t force their content and message into an existing design or layout it wasn’t built for. Thats not design, problem solving or a results driven solution, that’s lazy after thought that puts the cart before the horse.

Design should be used not only as a way to visual enhance and increase the credibility and trust in your brand, but also the consumption and belief of its message.

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Here’s why:

1. It Focuses the Design

People see before they read. If the visual appeal of your website’s design isn’t gripping, no amount of pithy headlines will make up for it.

Brilliant content falls flat without an equally brilliant presentation.

Designing before writing can result in a confusing visual display. You might compare it to forcing a square into a circle; it just doesn’t work.

Planning or writing your content first paves the way for you to get the best website design possible. It allows your website designer to create a design that elevates the content with greater and more relevant visual appeal.

But what about dummy content? Can’t a design be built around the generic idea of where content might go, like a template to be later filled with relevant information?

According to Luke Wroblewski, designer and now Product Director at Google:

Using dummy content or fake information in the Web design process can result in products with unrealistic assumptions and potentially serious design flaws.Click to Post

In other words, unfocused and fuzzy just like the world without corrective lenses. But if you use the content-first approach, you’ll be designing your website with contact lenses, a far more permanent and precise clarity.

2. It Speeds Production

“He’s taking a shortcut.”

“How much longer will that take?”

It never fails. Rush hour traffic ensues. You grab that street to the left for a quick cut around. And before you know it, you’re racing through side streets just to see the guy who was behind you pass by, an army of cars behind him, as you’re waiting to turn back on the main street.

So much for getting ahead.

Creating a website’s design first may seem like the obvious shortcut. Plan your website content afterwards to speed production, right?

Wrong! Unplanned “shortcuts” almost always take longer.

Instead, improve the speed at which a design is produced. Write website content first.

Finished content that’s ready to be displayed to the world is ten time easier to create a website design for. And it saves time because…

  • There’s no interrupting the design process for new versions of the copy…
  • No miscommunication or crossed wires from suddenly irrelevant information…
  • No chance of accidentally using the wrong version of the copy and being catapulted back to square one…

When you treat content as an afterthought website design can rapidly become a game of Monopoly where the “do not pass go” card keeps being drawn.

Simplify the process. Write website content FIRST.

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3. It Connects With the User

What is the purpose of a website?

In a nutshell, websites exist to connect with a specific target customer and get them to take a specific action. Action hinges on content, but content is worthless if the user doesn’t understand what they’re seeing.

As Kristina Halvorson states in her An Event Apart talk:

It’s nearly impossible (for content creators) to predict whether their writing will maintain impact and readability across each and every platform.Click to Post

Why? Because traditionally, the end design is rarely seen by the content creator.

What’s the solution? The content-first approach.

An effective website design results when content is created first and the design is molded around it. Suddenly, every element on the page can be made with precision, ensuring the user can glance at the finished product and instantly connect with it.

Speaking of precision, when you write your website content first…

4. It Improves Communication

Fact: Design is communication.

Everything written requires packaging in the form of design. Website design is the gift-wrap of copy. And it’s necessary.

Which would you rather open Christmas morning?

  • Box #1: A bland cardboard box with a duct tape seal.
  • Box #2: A pristinely wrapped present topped with a giant red bow that looks like a work of art.

Well, err… Box #2, all day long!

It’s appealing. It builds anticipation. It’s screaming to be ripped into because nine times out often what’s inside is just as awesome as what is outside!

You want your audience to rip into your website with all the vigour of a child opening presents on Christmas morning, right?

Plan your website content before gift-wrapping it with design.

Copywriting is interface design. Great interfaces are written. If you think ever pixel, every icon, every typeface matters, then you also need to believe every letter matters.Click to Post

Source: 37 Signals.

If you cannot write website content first, then at least PLAN your website content first.

Direction is everything in the realm of design. Without it, you might as well be asking for a design based on dummy content. It’s going to be subpar.

5. It Creates a Well-Oiled ROI Driven Machine

It’s time to go big or go home, and it all starts—it all ends—with the marriage of design and content.

Better website design starts with content planning.

At the very least, have a clear plan for the structure of your website’s content. Know what it needs to achieve.

A website can be designed without content planning, but it will lose clarity, impact, trust and credibility. As a result, it’s less likely to bring a return on investment.

Website design becomes one hundred times more effective when content is pre-planned and prepared.

Every on page element can be carefully crafted to achieve the desired result. Eight major design elements apply to a successful website design:

  1. Visual Hierarchy: Making elements stand out in order of importance…
  2. Divine Proportions: Proportioning elements to be pleasing to the eye using the golden ratio
  3. Hicks Law: Reducing choice and decision making…
  4. Fitt’s Law: Sizing elements in proportion to use…
  5. Rule of thirds: Making elements more interesting and appealing using thirds…
  6. Gestalt Design Laws: People see the whole before they see the parts…
  7. White space and clean design: Communicating clearly with the use of space…
  8. Occam’s Razor: The simplest solution is usually best…

According to Conversion XL, these eight elements are key to effective website design. Their value increases exponentially when both visual and intellectual elements—design and copy—work in harmony.

The best website designs are forged around a foundation of written or clearly planned content.

The content-first approach is the most efficient and effective way to get the best website design. It’s the key to eliminating a long process of revisions and instead creating a design that meets your needs and produces a return in the least amount of time possible.

If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.


Want a stunning website design that elevates your content and is geared to produce a return? Plan or write your content first.

Take Your Business to the Next Level

Do you need a new or better website design?

Could your content benefit from some fresh gift-wrapping?

If your website and content planning need more focus, then take a look at my article: 6 Crucial Requirements to Start a Successful Website.

And if you’re ready to take your business to the next level, click here to get your website discovery call now.

Together, we can…

  • Improve your company’s branding and image…
  • Create a responsive, user and mobile-friendly website experience…
  • Better your Google listing…
  • Attract your perfect customer with a gorgeously appealing “gift” they cannot wait to rip into…

…and hand your customers visible value on a silver platter. Isn’t that worth investing in?

If you’re ready to launch your successful website click here to get started now.