Once you start designing websites content first you are left wondering what took you so long, and how you ever got by building websites any other way. There’s no question that this is how we’ve felt at Storyware since we moved content to the center of our design and development process. Putting content first not only makes sense, it saves us time and money. Plus it keeps our stress levels at healthy – and creative – levels.

First off, what exactly do we mean by content first? Content first is an approach to web design that insists designers know roughly what the site content is before they start designing. Makes sense right?

So why did we end up making the switch? Here are our top five reasons:

Form Follows Function

Putting content first in your web design process keeps you in line with one of the fundamental tenets of good design: form should always follow function. Without an understanding of a client’s content from the start, design becomes meaningless. Practically, this means kicking off the web-design with a conversation about content, not fonts and colors. You wouldn’t ask an architect to design a building without telling them what the building will be used for, and we shouldn’t design websites without a comprehensive understanding of the content the site will feature.

Content is King

At the end of the day, a user doesn’t come to your website to marvel at its design, they come for the content. This means that no matter how beautiful your interface, if the content doesn’t deliver, the site won’t achieve its goals. By starting each project with a content analysis and review we get our clients thinking about the site’s purpose and their communication goals right from the start. It also kickstarts the content creation process, allowing us to design using real (or at least draft) content. As a design firm it can be tough to convince a client that a successful website redesign requires some upfront work on their end, but content and design is a symbiotic relationship and one can’t thrive without the other.

Timelines

One of the biggest hold ups in a web project can be content creation. Putting content first means you get the client thinking about content right away and you set the wheels in motion for content creation throughout the span of the project. This means significantly fewer delays at the end of the project when the client is ready to input content into the CMS. It also allows for a more efficient design process: when you incorporate real content into your designs, there tends to be fewer amends and iterations. Every design decision is informed by real content and presented to the client in a context they understand – saving time throughout the project.

Budget

Keeping timelines in check means keeping budgets on track. When you work with proto content (lorem ipsum) you can waste time and budget designing and building functionality and templates that can’t handle real content. Clients are forced to shoehorn their content into an existing design, and you often have to redesign templates to suit the content needs at the very end of the project. By getting real content into the design from the start you ensure that the budget consuming design and development tasks work for the client the first time around.

Sustainability

A content first design is a sustainable design. Because an analysis of the client’s organizational content requirements, communication goals, and content workflow takes place at start of the project, designers can prioritize content that delivers the client’s business and organizational needs, and clients will know from the start what types of content they can realistically maintain. This way the client gets a site that works for them; one they can sustain without featuring outdated or irrelevant content.


Also published on Medium.