Content and Design: How They Should Get Along

Content and design. The chicken and the egg. It seems like a classic Catch-22.

On one side, website designers argue vehemently that it is impossible to create and design a website without content while website content specialists argue (just as vehemently) that it is impossible to create content without a tangible website design.

So which comes first the website design or the website content?

Well, I would like to say – both.

It takes both content and design to make a site work, but not all creative teams work this way.

So, let’s delve into what some agencies might call the ‘great divide’ and explore this relationship between content and design, shall we?

The History of Content and Design

It’s hard to conceive now, but imagine seeing a website for the very first time. Ok, wait, imagine going on the internet for the very first time during a time that people are still relying on electric typewriters and computers are just becoming accessible to the commercial market.

The internet is considered a new-fangled fad and is not even fully understood or trusted by most users. Cell phones are still huge clunky plastic atrocities that most people don’t use.

During this time, web users were still using dial-up connections to access information, were just beginning to comprehend the virtual world and as they moved their pointers across the teeny tiny screen of their Mac 128k were accessing the very first websites.

These first websites were generally created by one person responsible for both the website design and formation of the web content. And this worked – at the time.

The evolution of the web, websites and the user experience is a fascination progression. And as websites have evolved and users have become much more adept at accessing information from websites, it was necessary to separate designers from content specialists.

In such a growing market, it’s impossible for one person to handle both design and content creation!

The Great Divide

The necessity to improve the user experience and concentrate on both website content and design led to a great divide of website designers and content specialists.

This great divide often led to an “us versus them” scenario, where each individual worked to create a unique and easily accessible website through their individual roles.

Content specialists would work to create useful and distinctive content with little regard for the design while designers would concentrate on creating web design that was most attractive and user-friendly with little consideration for the content.

And this worked – until now.

Website visitors and web users are more educated than they have ever been and are demanding more from the websites they visit. They want more in design, they want better content and they want it all quickly.

These requirements have forced businesses to enhance their websites and ensure the content and the designs are not only collective and mutually effective but continue to syndicate these requirements with unique, comprehensible and accommodating content and design.

Recently, businesses have realized the only way to create these enhanced websites is through a mutual relationship between the website designer and the website content strategist.

This is not an easy task.

How can you create a mutually beneficial relationship during website development between the design of your website and the content on your website?

Web development encompasses many different elements including design and development, evaluation and analysis, coding, organization, display, workflow processes, management, search optimization and information consolidation.

It is easy for a team to get lost in these elements during a web development project, however, understanding web content and design and recognizing the relationship between the two will enable members of the website development team to move across these elements more easily and create a website that properly engages and aligns the web design with the web content.

James Archer Director of Product Design and Experience at Infusionsoft identifies the benefits of bridging the divide between designers and content specialists.

There are few forces as formidable as designers and developers working together. Entire companies have sprung up around strong designer+developer teams, and these collaborative teams have built many of the tech and social platforms that have changed society itself in recent years.

Creating a web development team that enables content specialists and designers to work collaboratively creates a more organized project development and a website with dynamic aesthetics, effective user interface, unique content and clean code.

Content is Still King

Most web designers have heard that term. And most web designers roll their eyes at that term.

Here’s the deal:

Web content and web design are both equally critical to the success and effectiveness of a website. But, in recent years and with the rise of social media, sharing and online networking, companies have learned that the amount and the quality of the content are vital to creating an effective user experience.

People visit a website for the content.

In its most simplistic form, web content is the information that is on the website. Most people think of web content as the words and information on a website. And these are absolutely vital parts of web content.

But, the goal of a web content specialist is to great unique and fresh content that appeals to the audience and reaches the objectives of the intended message.

All content has an objective.

The objective may be to persuade, inform or entertain and the web content specialist creates content that meets the highlighted objective.

Web content doesn’t just encompass the written word anymore. The educated user demands more. Web content specialists are required to be creative in choosing mediums for the content and creating distinct content.

These mediums include words, videos, music, media campaigns, SEO, social media, and images. Content may seem entirely separate from the design, however, when website development focuses on content and leaves design as an after-thought, the effectiveness, diversity, and accessibility of the content is lost on the user.

>Web Design is (Also) King

Website designers plan, create and devise the layout of the website to create a site that is both visually and user-appealing. Website designers consider typography, colours, image and content placement, coding, interface and web graphic design.

It may seem that designing the layout of a website is not at all dependent on the content (which is the reason for the popularity of Lorem Ipsum), however, the design and layout of a website can complement and enhance the content when the website development includes the collaboration of the two.

Sofia Woods of Shortie Designs writes:

Effective web design is judged by the users of the website and not the website owners. There are many factors that affect the usability of a website, and it is not just about form (how good it looks), but also function (how easy is it to use),” Web designers bridge navigation with creative and artistic design to create visually appealing and easily accessible content.

Collaborate! Where Good Design Meets Great Content

Creating a website development team that involves the cohesive and ongoing partnership of content strategists and designers, helps your brand build a strong web presence.

Websites that are created through a collaborative effort are more fluid, the layout is more accessible and the design and content mutually complement each other. A website development team that includes the partnership of content strategists and designers can also enhance the user experience of the website.

The first step in creating collaboration between your designer and your content specialist is to create a channel for open communication.

Businesses often hire a content specialist first to write the content and then later hire a designer to take the content and work with it to provide the website design.

Avoid this separation by hiring the content specialist and the designer together as a team. Get both your content specialist and your designer into the same meeting, and work towards common, outlined goals through collaboration. The goals should be collective and both the content specialist and the designer work together to create the message and design that best performs together.

To create a cohesive web development team and engage communication between your content specialist and your designer, consider using popular business communication or project management apps and tools.

Some to consider include:

    • Invision
    • Slack
    • Trello

and one of our personal favourite’s at Canny:

  • Asana

These tools will enable sharing of work, timeline management and ongoing communication amongst the team.

Communication is only the first step.

How can a website development team REALLY bring these two team members together? There are some guidelines that can be beneficial to the creation and maintenance of a relationship between the content specialist and the website designer.

Collaborate! What Content Specialists Need to Do

Create Abridged Content

Although content specialists create content to be accessed and analyzed by the intended website audience, this content is not necessarily accessible or comprehended by the designer. This may be especially true for websites that have a lot of content or have a lot of technical writing.

Instead of relying on the website designer to denote areas for content with Lorem Ipsum, content writers should create content specifically for the designer. This content must contain the context of the content, identifies the intended audience and outlines the intended medium for the content. The designer should be able to quickly and easily identify these three things.

This quick identification will enable to the designer to access the content and create a design that compliments the content. The content specialist can modify and edit the content, but with the context, the designer will be able to create designs that supplement that content.

Learn About the Design

Content specialists should take some time to learn the basics of website design. Knowledge about font, colour, content applications and design layout will enable content specialists to create content that compliments the design process.

Clear Direction

As the content specialist creates abridged content, it is also helpful for them to create directive content for the designer.

This directive content should outline a clear direction and the most important elements for the designer.

Content specialists should clearly identify the approximate word count of the content, the prioritization of the messaging and the call to action. The designer is then able to develop a layout that prioritizing the intended content.

Collaborate! What Designers Need to Do

Get Rid of Lorem Ipsum

Website designers depend on Lorem Ipsum to delegate the positioning of web content. This delegation would enable to content specialist to quickly and easily plunk in the content.

The issue with the usage of Lorem Ipsum is it denotes the absolute lack of interaction and collaboration between the designer and the content specialist.

If the designer has no idea what the intended content is, how are they able to effectively create and design the most effective space, colours, font, and medium? They can’t. Not effectively anyway.

It is vital that the content specialist creates content for the designer to place instead of using Lorem Ipsum. The content may not be the final edited content, but it will contain the intended message, the intended audience, and the intended medium.

The content specialist will also create this content as accessible as possible to help the designer understand their intentions. This provides context to the designer and enables the designer to create a more cohesive and accessible user interface.

Teach the Design

Explain the design elements and the design framework to the content specialist as the project develops. This explanation should be as simple as possible and highlight the areas relevant to content.

By teaching the content specialist about the website design and the elements required to create the intended design, the content specialist can then create edited content that is enhanced and improved by the design.

Clear Direction

Ensure the content specialist is clear on the reasoning and importance of the design.

Content specialists are able to identify to you the context, audience and proposed medium, the designer must also communicate the limitations of certain design elements, the reasoning behind design elements and the steps necessary to attain design elements.

Pulling It All Together: The Happy Marriage of Content and Design

By working together and engaging in ongoing communication, the content specialist and the designer will continually revamp, revise and improve the progress through ongoing feedback. Collaboration with a design partner will also enable a more focused and seamless website design project based on communication and ongoing development.

Like so few things in business, it is possible to avoid this Catch-22.

Open, communicative collaboration between the content specialist and the website designer will can enhance the overall content and design of the website. Here, I have to say that we have bridged the great divide between content specialists and graphic designers.

 

Thank You for reading this blog.

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