To many, the idea of creating a website with content before design sounds ludicrous. Design is the first thing you see when you visit a website. If you’re rebuilding a website, why wouldn’t design be the first thing you start building? Because the content is the message. The content is what tells people about your brand, your organization’s mission and who you are. The content communicates with the audience and that is the way your organization communicates should always be priority.

A wise man once tweeted (then pinned and repeated), “Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.” Jeffrey Zeldman, a New York based entrepreneur and renowned expert in the world of web design, was on the cutting edge of web strategy when he said this years ago.

Content before design

Mapping out your website redesign will help shape the tone you want to convey, both through content and design. First, think of the end goal. What is it you want to communicate to your audience? Answer this question, then structure your content strategy in reverse. Think about the elements you will include in your website: pull quotes, large photos, graphics, etc. These specific content types allow you to better plan and thinking of this from the start will help save time in the creation process.

Make sure your content team and designers are communicating every step of the way. If you’ve hired someone to do this for your website, make sure you’re communicating your needs to them, so they can work from a clear picture.

There are many ways to build a content strategy, but perhaps the most important task in creating a successful strategy is conducting research. Informal and formal research go a long way and help in the discovery of effective content planning. Again, design must come after this planning and is built from the strategy, so research is a key task in all areas of this process.

Remember, this is a process that requires planning for two major components. Don’t be afraid to let go of some content if it does not agree with design and vice versa. It’s a collaborative process. Keep everyone in the loop!

Learn more about content planning:

What Designers Want: Creating Content with Design in Mind

Change your focus and design “Content First”