What comes first, design or content? I seem to be getting a lot of calls from people who have invested in a website with no content. They call me at the end of the project because they “need some words” on their site. Invariably they need it done fast. They always want the content optimised to attract search engines. I can also predict, with certainty, they will be surprised at the investment required to develop the content for their site.
Content: The Great Afterthought
You might think I’m talking about start-up companies, but I’m not. I see this problem across all industry sectors, government agencies, not-for-profit organisations, and even businesses developing their second or third website. I have never had someone contact me about content before speaking to a website designer. This tells me people are more concerned about how things look than what is being said.
Traditional Approach: Property Development
I do understand why this is happening. In a bricks-and-mortar business, getting your property is usually the first step on the road to a Grand Opening. Once you have secured a building or a piece of property, you start the construction/renovation phase. The next step is to fit it out and furnish it. The last step is to bring your stock in. Now you’re ready for trade.
The Online Conundrum
But here’s the problem. You can’t equate a website to a physical place of business. Why? In the digital environment, your content is what attracts search engines. Your content is also what keeps people drilling down into your website. In a virtual world, the design can help improve the user experience. It can promote your company branding. It can present an attractive and desirable door to your business. Good design, however, cannot keep people on your website.
Digital Approach: Publishing
Here’s another analogy to consider: Imagine a book publisher designing a book cover, choosing a winning title and having the book bound and the cover printed before an author is even selected. What sort of sales figures do you think that book would generate? How effective is the story going to be if the author is bound to the whims of a printer? When you have a website designed and developed without a content strategy in place, that’s essentially what you’re doing. A website is not an asset to your business if the content does not support what you’re trying to do. When you leave content development until the end of the project, you’re unlikely to realise the full potential of your website.
Remember, your website is an asset to your business. Content is equally important to design. Developing a successful online presence means you must develop a strong content strategy to keep both search engines and visitors interested in your site. Developing content takes both time and money and must be considered in tandem with website development. Your investment should be driven by publishing, NOT property development.
What’s your opinion? What comes first, design or content?
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*Image courtesy of playingwithbrushes at www.flickr.net