Most businesses spend a lot of time and energy perfecting the design of their website. When I meet with business owners and marketing managers to discuss a website, the design is usually the first thing on their minds.
That’s great, I love a client who knows what they want!
It makes sense to focus on design; it’s the first thing you notice in any marketing piece, whether it’s in print or digital. But design alone will not sell your product or deliver new clients to your business.
The design is there to grab a visitor’s attention and get them to read something. Design is important, but the words are what convinces people to become clients. The words tell prospects that you understand what they want, and that you can deliver it. The words are what sells.
I know what you’re thinking: “I can add the text to my website after I’ve settled on the design.”
Yes, you can. But if you want your website to achieve its goals, then you shouldn’t.
A Better Way: Content-First Design
The vast majority of business websites are designed and coded long before the first page of content is delivered. That means the web designer has to make guesses about the content, and how much text there will be.
A good designer knows how to draw the reader’s eye, creating a visual path from the first paragraph all the way down to the call-to-action. They use images and color to reinforce the messages in the text, and create an emotional response in the reader. These are proven methods that drive sales.
But they can’t enhance the message if they don’t know what the message is!
Think of your text content as the “product” your website delivers to the visitor, and the design as the “package”. You wouldn’t design a package before you had a product, and you should not design your website before you have the content.
Do It Right, or Do it Over
Aside from the obvious benefit of driving sales and delivering clients, the content-first design method has the added bonus of saving time and money on your website project.
One reason that so many websites are completed late and over-budget is that the content, inserted after the site has been developed, doesn’t fit correctly into the design.
Often, when a designer has to guess about website content, they guess wrong. A small space that was intended for a few short sentences might actually need to hold several long paragraphs. An image that seemed perfect in the early design might look out-of-place after a headline is added.
Fixing problems like these could require major edits to the website code, delaying the project and incurring additional expense. Even worse, a well-intentioned designer may rush through these edits to meet the deadline…leaving your business with a patchwork website design that looks sloppy.
Make the Last Step the First
The best thing about content-first design is that it does not require any extra work. You can spend the same amount of time on your website content, just make it the first step in the process instead of the last.
Even better, have all of your content written and approved before you hire your website designer. They will thank you for it, and you’re likely to get a better website in less time!