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How Does a Content-First Design Strategy Streamline Your Web Development Process

How Does a Content-First Design Strategy Streamline Your Web Development Process

by Adrian Ababei on Jan 12 2017
"But we're highly visual beings!" you might say.
 
It's true and yet, in modern design, which reaches out to users with shortened attention span, users that have the latest technology at their fingertips, technology enabling them to access the needed information instantly: content prevails.
 
And design is (just) the means for highlighting it with, for making it easy to find.
 
Now imagine this other possible scenario: "You pick the wrapping paper (and you're quite proud of your color choice, you so love its pattern, too) and then a cute gift box, a lovely ribbon, as well, and then: you go shopping for the present itself!"
 
It should fit in that box that you've already so carefully picked!
 
If it doesn't, you should go for another gift (even if it's your second best choice) or strive to make it fit in, somehow.
 
And this is what the "design first" strategy, the one that we, too, use in our digital agency in Toronto, does: it either forces you to craft a brand new content or to make it jam in the “package”/design.
 
In result: you either waste priceless time or you risk to “ruin” your content.
 
Now let's cut the chase and see exactly how a content-first strategy will streamline your website building/redesigning process:

 

1. Put Content First: Save Time and Money

 
Ready for some more visualization exercises?

 
Let's say you're almost there, so close to releasing your Drupal website (or your client's) into the wild and to “crushing” your competition from the very first day you launch it.
 
And, all of a sudden, someone waves the red flag:
 
  • certain pieces of the content still need stakeholders' approval (and this might require more time than estimated)

     
  • it's just now that you realize that there's more content needed to be written from scratch or revised and, surprise, surprise: you don't have all the needed resources to deliver it on time

     
  • the designer comes in with his/her own input, too: he's just realized that, well, his work and the copywriter's work are not exactly a “match made in heaven” 
 
Can you guess where all the above scenarios lead to? 
 
To project delay, to a major waste of energy from the part of your team, a lot of stress and last but surely not least: to a big hole in the budget allocated for this web project, too.
 
And you don't want this to happen. 
 
If only you could have invested some time for strategically planning and structuring your content beforehand!
 
If so, now you would have just thrown it into the mocks, focusing on the last on the last details and polishes.
 
Planned ahead content:
 
  • would have helped your team lay the very foundation stones of the whole UX of your website (where exactly the user would find the needed information at various stages of his/her journey on your site)
  • would have helped them draft the whole site's architecture
  • would have also driven the right contextual design decisions, too. 
 
Instead, now you're facing panic and the risk of not being able to efficiently repair the major gaps detected in your site's UX...

 

2. Organize Content First and Prioritize Users' Needs

 
It's content that users come for on your website! 
 
You should keep this in mind throughout the whole Drupal site building/redesigning process!
 
Everything else revolves around content
 
  • how to make it easy to find
  • how to add meaningfulness to it
  • how to compliment it with stunning visuals etc.
 
Now, by focusing on content first, on organizing and structuring it, you basically put your future users' needs first. 
 
Get it?
 
And now speaking of organizing content first and foremost, it's vital for you to realize the importance of investing time in a solid content strategy:
 
  • it helps you outline the whole site's architecture
  • it's the step where you put together your site maps  
  • it's now that you structure the whole content hierarchy on your future website 
 
Basically, it's at this part of the process that you take major content-related decisions on how to meet your audience's needs and how to reach your marketing goals through the content you'll provide on your website.
 
Who is your target audience?
 
What type of content will they be looking for on your Drupal website?
 
Where exactly, on which pages on your website will you be placing different parts of your content, each one standing for a different stage in your users' journey on your site?
 
Once you have some clear answers to all the above content creation-related questions:
  1. go ahead and run a content audit (if it's a site redesigning project that you're involved in)

     
  2. establish every single step of the whole content production process with all the stakeholders.
 
Its vital, at this step, to know what budget and other types of resources the whole content creation process implies. This way you'll avoid all the unfortunate situations where certain content-related tasks included in the “master plan” cannot be carried out due to lack of resources.

 

3. Harmonize Content With Design From The Very Start

 
Design used to come first! And it was like putting the cart before the horse.
 
Just think about it: the design team would challenge their “muses” to help them create a truly stunning design for the final website with no guidelines, whatsoever (or very vague ones) regarding the content that will go on the website.
 
The content, the main reason why users would land on your website in the first place, remember, used to come second.
 
Where did this work-flow lead to?
 
Well, it lead to an imminent clash between design and content!
 
Content had to get “squeezed in” or “enlarged” just to fit the given design, in other words: it was the “package” that determined the item inside!
 
Be better than that!
 
Go for a content-first strategy and thus put the basis to a healthy and fruitful collaboration between the copywriters and designers, right from the start.
 
This way, they can harmonize their work. They can smooth out any wrinkle in design or fill in any gap in the user experience from the very start.

 

4. It Enhances Understanding From Start to Post-Launch

 
As already pointed out in this post: once the whole team, designers here included, get the chance to work with real content, instead of lorem ipsum, they get to put everything in a context and make the best design decisions right from the prototyping phase.
 
With real content at hand, crafting an intuitive navigation path and an engaging web design gets a lot easier.  
 
Well planned content, crafted so that it should go hand-in-hand with design, will enhance users' understanding, as well. Your main goal, after all, either as a web developer in Toronto or a website owner.
 
And this is the idea that we wanted to get to in the first place! 
 
Users won't have to rely exclusively on directional cues, arrows and tabs in order to navigate through your website: content, too, comes in the equation, making it far easier for them to scan though and explore your site. To get to the content they're interested in.

 

5. Planned Ahead Content Enhances Communication

 
Design is communication! Nothing to argue about here.
 
“A picture is worth a thousand words”, indeed, but not in modern design: think about mobile users looking for answers or information, looking to buy something or in need for a certain service etc.
 
In such cases words come first, no matter how suggestive or stunning the picture may be!
 
Get it?
 
The very first step is to think through what is it that you'll communicate to your users. Otherwise you'll communicate them just the “channel” used for conveying the message instead of the message itself.
 
The “What” (what message will you convey to your end users?) should come first, followed, closely by the "How": how could you present that content in a meaningful way? How can you craft the most intuitive interface for your user?
 
Your turn now:
 
What other reasons would you add to our list if you've already adopted the content-first strategy in your web projects?
 
Or what objections do yo have if you still consider that content should follow design instead? Feel free to express yourself in the comments below!
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