What is Content First?

The purpose of a website's design is to present the content in a meaningful way, maintain the brand, and set up a comfortable and interesting visual environment. It's all about knowing what the design's purpose is and how it'll achieve that purpose before you start designing. After all, if we design before we have content, we effectively create the packaging before knowing what's going in it. There are a number of steps that comprise content first. Implement them to make the content you're working with more manageable. The design will reveal itself trough the content.

Why Content First?

Taking a content first approach offers several benefits that range from enabling a better overall design vision to catch problems before they become problems

Build out an info structure

When you know what content you have/need it's easier to define your overall sitemap and build out a logical hierarchy.

Design to optimize the content

If you know your client's bloggers use quotes a lot, you can design beautiful ways to showcase block quotes and callouts.

Create consistency across site

If you know your site will have a blog, help center, etc. you can design your type hierarchy to work across all three areas.

Avoid endless iteration

All too often, when design kicks off without content, the development process devolves into an endless back-and-forth between designer and stakeholders, which usually means lots of frustrating text changes.

Implementing Content First

Taking a content first approach offers several benefits that range from enabling a better overall design vision to catch problems before they become problems. Read on for a step-by-step guide.

  • Client Brief

    The first step to creating content for a client's website is to conduct a client brief. It should include objectives and goals of the design, budget and schedule, target audience, scope of the project, required materials, and overall look. It helps to get inside the client's head so you can design what they're thinking.

  • Create User Personas

    As defined by Ardath Albee, a buyer persona is a composite sketch of a key segment of your audience. For content marketing purposes, you need personas to help you deliver content that will be most relevant and useful to your audience. Without personas, you may only be guessing what content your audience wants, which means you are more likely to revert to creating content around what you know best (your products and company) instead of around the information your audience is actively seeking.

  • Content Strategy

    A content strategy includes the goals of the website, an auduences pain point, a breakdown of all the pages of the website, channels to distribute site, what the user expects to find and accomplish and actions they'll take, messaging priorities, tone and guidelines, web feature list, user analysis, user needs and goals, website needs, goals, and message, hierarchy chart, and sitemap. This is where the content starts to take shape.

  • Design and Prototype

    Now that all the content has been curated, it's now time to start designing. It entails creating a style tile, selecting a template, making wireframes of the desktop version of the site, and breakpoint sketches of the devices that the site will scale to. Then, you create a working prototype to simulate the site. All the kinks can be worked out in the prototype. Once the client is happy, publish it to a CMS and presto, you've created a website with real content geared towards your target market!