Over the years I’ve found that you can almost always guarantee that a client underestimates the work involved in writing and collating content, and then, if using a CMS, entering it all. It sounds easy – write something about a subject you know.
The title of this article also makes the solution sound simple. Either you crack on with a design, and then fill in the holes, or you wait until finally all the content is in a signed off state. It would be easy to say stick to one or the other, but such an answer would simply be an oversimplification.
Content to design
The idea behind fitting content to a design is pretty straight forward. You create a pixel perfect design and then craft your content around it. Simple. Your design is visually perfect throughout. Everything is beautifully consistent. Everything lines up nicely and falls in the perfect place. Those 40-50 words the designer told you to use for each feature block will all look wonderfully balanced and very professional. Everyone is happy!
It can also give you a structure in which to craft your content. It makes life easier to have a starting point after all. Just fill in the holes and done.
It is also nice to get the design process cracking early on. We all like visuals. Seeing a design adds a tangible sense of progress, and can also help form opinions on how content can be approached by how it balances out images or illustrative elements. It provides nice and potentially productive early talking points
Design to content
Mind you, fitting your content to a design covers over some cracks…
All this great design work, however much research has been undertaken to ensure every concept and assumption is rock solid, is still based on content that very possibly doesn’t exist – or even worse, is potentially misunderstood
At the end of the day you are the expert in your area. Great content takes time to craft. It is what people are ultimately coming to your website, brochure or video for, not the attractive imagery and great icons. Add in any copywriting or search engine optimisation services and it is a significant task that should be treated with care and respect.With this in mind, the design should be a tool for making your content sing, balance any SEO requirements and be visually appealing. Customers love content. Google loves content. Content is king! It goes without saying that this should be nailed down first.
There is always a but…
In the real world, there are immovable deadlines, there are changes to specifications, there are feature additions, stakeholder demands, illnesses, curveballs and unexpected twists. With the absolute best will in the world final content cannot always be waited upon.
First draft content can be used to form a solid base for a design if available but this can also change, necessitating design amends or even more time consuming development amends.
Working in this imperfect reality, my key belief is to maintain good levels of communication throughout. Aim for content before design but be realistic. By working together the choppy content waters can be navigated and you can get a great product at the end of it.
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