February 29, 2016
Designing Websites Without Content
Designing websites without content… is next to impossible.
Content is one of the biggest struggles in the website design process. Who is going to organize it? What should it communicate? Who’s going to do the writing? Is someone ensuring consistency? Years ago, we pushed our clients to make in-depth content decisions up front, before any planning work had been done. After a few difficult projects, we realized the most productive conversations about content were only occurring once we had some visuals to point to.
Rather than diving into these conversations up front, we now begin our process with a high-level Content Audit. As part of this process, we take stock of the current pitfalls and highlights of any existing written materials and pinpoint what key messages should be communicated. From this collaborative discussion, our team can put together an appropriate sitemap that will help guide all stakeholders.
Before any real writing begins, we also create detailed content-stripped wireframes. It’s amazing what simple boxes and lines can do to help all parties visualize specific pieces of text. The wireframes help us to form a common vocabulary when speaking about individual sections of the site. They also allow most clients to view the content a bit more objectively – shifting the focus to user utility and impact, rather than personal emotional connections.
Using the content audit, sitemap and wireframes as a guide, we can now begin the process of content generation. Our team is available on an as-needed basis to help outline sections, edit existing copy, or write extensive final text. We ultimately use a resource called GatherContent to collect all of these assets in a centralized location. Only at this point, can design begin.
Our design team works closely with our clients to create custom, high-end, branded web elements. This task that would be next to impossible without content. To effectively guide users throughout the site, there must be a story to tell – a message to be communicated.
When we’ve all put in the effort to make foundational decisions about the current and future content during the planning stage, we can design systems and functionalities to better support the site over its lifetime. Our team even customizes the backend of WordPress to make content entry easier and more efficient for the client, giving their site admins the tools to manage their site well on into the future.
When done right, your written messaging will come together with unique visuals and custom functionality to create a memorable brand experience. Website content creation is difficult – there’s no question. With the right mechanisms in place and experienced guides to light the way, it doesn’t have to be a crippling endeavor.