Let’s say you’re a new bakery start-up. After you build your brand, source your team and secure your kitchen, your first order of business is to buy cute containers to package your baked goods. Now, it’s time to figure out what goodies you’re going to bake to fit in those packages!
If that feels backwards to you, then good. It should. Because it is. Deciding on a container before you decide on the content of the container is a bad idea. It’s a pretty bad idea in web design, too.
Your container certainly needs to represent your brand, but your customers don’t buy your breads, cakes and cookies for the container. You need to think about your website in the same way. Your design may keep your visitors on the site, but the design isn’t why they’ve landed there in the first place. And in the same way that a beautiful box won’t save your business from a bad review if the brownie inside it is terrible, a well-designed site will be bad for your brand if your content is rotten.
I’ve been on all sides of a website build: the brand, the content marketing agency and the web development side. In each role, I’ve heard the same question in different forms: “Why do I need content to start?” or, “Can we add content last?” There are a lot of reasons why you need to create the content—or at least a detailed content outline—before you design.
Design and art are not the same. To quote John O’Nolan, “Good art inspires. Good design motivates.” Art explores a problem, but design solves them. I’d be so bold to say that most people misunderstand the difference between these two, which leads them to think that a web design is more like an art project than a problem solver. In other words, a designer needs to know the problem in order to solve it. Or, know the story in order to tell it. You can’t design a solution to fit a problem you don’t know or understand yet.
When you’re working with the web design team to offer feedback, it’s much easier to envision the final product when there’s real content rather than placeholders. It also helps you think through how the site will function for your customers. Ultimately, this allows you to provide more meaningful feedback, which can cut down on revision time (and costs). Plus, when the designs are done, if there’s already content plugged in, there’s less time from design to launch.
Web design aside, it’s critical to think through content as early as possible to help you narrow down your process. At Elevate My Brand (EMB), most of our team writes in a journal. It lets us process and organize our own thoughts so we make clearer decisions and, in turn, can help our clients make clearer decisions. Writing web content can do the same thing for your brand. It shows you where you have gaps in logic, knowledge or operations. If you plan a site without thinking through the content first, there most certainly will be gaps.
Content and design are married through SEO. Each page should have a focus keyword in line with your overall digital strategy and customer journey. If there are 10 keywords or key phrases you want to rank for at launch, then you know that you need 10 pages. You also want to make sure your site structure makes sense for your content. Google and other search engines use the hierarchy of your sitemap to determine if the content is relevant, so you need to plan for that.
I won’t lie; it isn’t always easy to think about content well before web design starts. A lot of the time, content creation and web design happens in tandem out of necessity. We totally understand that. But in an ideal world, content comes first, and you should strive for the best-case scenario.
At EMB, we aren’t simply content marketers, we’re full-service digital strategists. We not only create content, we create websites and help our clients think through their branding from the ground up, which perfectly positions us to help you with your website design process. If you’re ready to elevate your brand, let’s chat!
Cody H. Owens, Account Executive
Elevate My Brand