Design Advice: What comes first, the content or the design?

The scenario: You have decided to build a website for your business.

The steps: You get quotes from a few web designers, pick one, and they build a mock up design for you to see. Perhaps they build a few mock-ups and you pick the one you like. Now you give the web designer all of your content to upload into the design.

The result – not exactly what you expected. There’s something different. It really doesn’t look like the mock-up any more. You wonder what happened. Did the designer code something wrong?

Here’s what actually happened. And I see this happen over and over again. The design used stock images and didn’t take into consideration the actual content that would be uploaded. And how could it? The content was not presented before the design was considered.

Think about it. Your logo may be dominantly one color – like red. So your design takes on a complimentary color, like gray. The mock up looks great. Then you add your images of your products and you realize that your products are mostly purples and yellows. It doesn’t matter how nicely the design blended the reds and the grays, your images alone dictate that your design should be different.

Next you add the copy. You have a beautiful wide screen design, and just a few paragraphs of text. Now it looks like you don’t have enough to say about your business. Or the reverse happens. Your content area is small and you have a lot to say, so your clients have to scroll and scroll and scroll to read everything.

My advice to anyone about to redo or build their website, Content is King! The real content that is going to be added to the website needs to be presented to the designer. There is a way to blend it all together seamlessly, no matter how disparate everything is, but only if your designer can see it all in the same place.

This is exactly what happens when you go to a big firm, the kind that writes the copy for you, takes the photos, figures out your call to action, and programs the whole thing for you. They see it all at once. They know where it’s going and what copy it’s going to have.

If you don’t have the budget to work with a firm like this, at least don’t make the mistake of thinking it can all be pieced together a bit at a time. The design never comes first! You can surf around and find design examples you like, but put your content together first, gather it all before you hire a designer. You’ll thank me for this advice. Trust me. In my 10 years in the Fargo web design industry, I’ve seen this too many times to count.