Content First-Design- A Better Approach
It doesn’t matter if you’re designing a brand new app from scratch, working on a new feature or creating a landing page; design should start with the content first. There are many benefits to this. Ultimately you’ll end up creating better products or websites.
Content first in design
There are two scenarios to consider. Either way, the process of content first is the same, it’s just a matter of writing it yourself or editing what someone else provided you. The first scenario is when there is no copy or content provided. That’s your cue and opportunity to start writing. Treat this like UX or UI design meaning two things. One, ask a series of questions to set your content writing is going to be successful. Start by asking the same question you normally would of any design project: what pain points do the customers have? What outcome are the users looking for? Why would a visitor end up on this landing page? Speak with the target audience. Two, get feedback on what you come up with like you’d o your designs. Go through a few revisions and then have your team or client sign off on the content before moving on.
You’re going to have to ask these questions for the project anyway, ask them before crafting the content. Because just like with UX or UI design, you can’t design something without understanding it first albeit it pixels or words.
The second scenario is when the client or your team have provided all the content for you. If that happens, that’s great; now, make sure it’s good of good quality. Again, ask the same question you would if you were writing it yourself – what makes this client special, etc. But, also review the content provided. Are there missing pieces of the content? Does everything make sense? Is there a lot of content that should be divided into different pages maybe? Is the tone of voice right for the branding?
Just another step in the design process
Any great content starts with a story. We all know this by now. As designers, we talk about the overall user experience and the story we want to tell the customers or visitors. The same applies to the content as it eventually becomes part of the design; treat it as such. Ask yourself, what’s the story of this project or client? What problems are the users or visitors facing? What is the customer’s ideal outcome and so on?
Beginnings of the design structure
Start creating the content as you’d imagine it to be on the website – structure it. Each page or screen will have its own purpose, start with that. Then, within each page, there will be different sections. These sections too should have a defined purpose or goal. Next, write out what will be in those sections from the headlines to the last link. If you’ve been provided content by your client or another team member use these as you see appropriate in fitting with the overall narrative.
Incorporating it into design processes
If you’re part of a larger team you might have someone on staff who is a copywriter. Get them involved in the beginning of the project, as soon as possible. The whole point of this article is to get you to be comfortable with the content first approach. Be proactive. Take initiative to include your appropriate teammates. On the other hand, if you’re part of a small team with no copywriter or work by yourself, take it upon yourself to incorporate content before any visual design starts. It’s that simple.
Writing copy and thinking through the content ought to be the first step of any design process. If you’re not sure what to say, how to effectively communicate with users talk to them and you’ll know. But never leave the content, especially writing copy, till later in the project. This content first approach can only strengthen the final outcome of the projects you’re working on.
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