content-first design

Why Your Website Should Adopt a Content-first Design Approach

Content gives meaning to a website. It draws people in, defines the site’s purpose and encourages action. Content answers questions and It helps to tell the brand story through various mediums—videos that show how a product can be used, blogs that explore different ideas, and images that drive inspiration.

Which is why a content-first design approach is the right way to create a new website. In fact, it should be planned before the designing process starts. Websites perform better when you’re conscious and careful about what your content should communicate and how it works with the design.

What is a content-first design?

The ‘content-first’ was stressed upon by the founder of A List Apart, Jeff Zeldman back in 2008. He says that ‘in order to create the right layout and structure for any digital experience, you have to know what the content is first.’

Content-first design highlights one of the biggest philosophical viewpoints in the design process. For example, a new restaurant website entices potential audience by sharing the cooking style, information about the cuisine, location, etc.

A marketing website gives information about the product—who it’s intended for, how it’s used, etc. Similarly, an eCommerce website gives information about the product, delivery, returns and payment information, etc.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, an architect needs a blueprint before the actual construction starts. An author needs a basic sketch and flow of the story before he begins writing. In these examples, form follows function. And in web design, content is the function.

Note here, that content is not just copy. Content also includes all the media such as videos, podcasts, graphics, and yes, plain-old-words too.

Content helps a website’s SEO

Founder of Moz, Rand Fishkin says, ‘Organizations who can’t match up in content creation and promotion may find themselves losing out to content marketers who learn the basics of SEO.’

Web crawlers feed on content – it signals a site’s relevance and supplies information search engines need to sort and rank a website. This is why your content-first design should keep SEO in mind to create a better user experience and enhance search rankings for the website.

While SEO-friendly content is important, it is significantly more important to create content for your readers. Forcefully mashing keywords and phrases together can result in writing that is incoherent. Content needs to be authentic and useful while still providing enough juice for search engines to rank the website. 

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In today’s digital age, every business needs a website. But what use is having a website if nobody can find it? When it comes to building and designing a new website or revamping your existing one, you must keep SEO at the forefront of your website creation process.

Top benefits of content-first design

Taking a content first approach when designing a website has multiple benefits. These range from enabling a better overall design vision to identifying problems in the design before they surface.

Here are 4 ways content-first design helps:

1. It helps design take shape

Knowing what kind of content the website will host can help its design. For instance, if your client will be sharing a lot of listicles then maybe a gallery or card-based design could be better compared to a long-numbered list. Or if the blogs will include a lot of quotes from famous people, then maybe the design can complement that through unique blockquotes or callouts. Having the right content architecture can make a world of a difference.

2. It helps build a sensible information structure

With a content-first design, you’ll have an idea of what content you already have or will need. This will make it easier to define your overall sitemap and build a logical hierarchy that’s user-friendly.

3. It helps reduce the rounds of iteration

More often than not, the process of designing kicks in without the content. Which makes the development process devolve into an endless back and forth between the designer and the client. This tends to get frustrating for both the parties as there are multiple tiny design/content changes that the designer has to update mocks with. All this can be avoided if the content is planned first.

4. It helps to lighten your code and to create consistency

Having a clear understanding of the various sections your website will have can help with the design. The content-first design helps in designing the hierarchy that works across all the major areas of a website such as a blog, help center section, etc. It aids in creating a more consistent interface and keeps you from creating a bunch of messy combo classes.

A well-functioning website is one that makes the user’s journey through it as easy as possible. The design directs the user to the right content and helps him fulfill his purpose of visiting the website. This is why a content-first design goes a long way in simplifying the web-development process.


Also published on Medium.

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