Content First

Both Sarah @Sarah_Darby and I @RobertDicks attended the Port 80 Localhost event on Wednesday 29th August 2012 (thanks to Joel Hughes @joel_hughes for organsing the event).

I listened with great interest to Robert Mills of Bluegg who championed the ‘content first’ approach to web design projects, which I completely agree with. Due to time quickly running out at the event I wasn’t able to give my comments in response to Rob’s excellent talk, so I thought I’d write this quick post championing this idea.

lorem ipsum all the way…

Of course, traditionally many web design projects have used dummy content such as lorem ipsum text and produced the design first – something I have always felt uncomfortable with. As Rob points out:

  • designs often needed to change to accommodate the content
  • content was shoe-horned into existing design
  • projects stalled at the very end when everything is completed and you were awaiting the content

Taking Rob’s first point about designs changing when content is (finally!) provided, this, from personal experience is one of the biggest problems with the content last approach.

“I liked the design but now I don’t”

I have in the past been asked to change or tweak a design even when dummy content has been used only to be asked to change the design back again when the client’s content has been added in the final stages of the project. I often feel that it is difficult for some customers to visualise what the finished site will look like whilst the dummy text is in place.

Tone of the site

Another problem that I have encountered with the content last approach is that the ‘tone’ of the site can drastically change when content is added at the end of the project. I have been involved in a few projects where we have discussed with the client the type of design, researched other relevant websites in the clients industry and have then suggested a design that is finally agreed. All is well and good, the site is built with dummy content, the client is happy, you are happy and then you receive the content.

Often the content provided is in completely the wrong tone for the design of the site. For example, the customer wanted a very corporate looking site and the copy you receive is very personal in nature, which doesn’t fit well into the design. More often than not, you receive copy that is very corporate in nature with all personality stripped out of it (which doesn’t read at all well in any site design!)

This is where the project is suddenly delayed whilst you A) Rewrite the copy or B) go back to the client and ask them to revise it which can sound somewhat rude at this late stage. As Rob refers to in his article, if you sell the ‘content first’ concept, clients can chat to you about what content is needed, the tone of the content and as enthusiasm is still high at the start of the project, they are also able to see the site taking shape without having to visualize what the end-product will look like.

Content First

We have started to go down this road in recent months at Forte, albeit we often ask for most of the content before we start a project. We still often tweak the content to make it more readable on the web but we have found this approach is far more rewarding both for us and the client. We will certainly be continuing with this approach and thanks to Rob’s excellent talk we will be working with future clients on an ‘all content first approach!’

Read Rob’s excellent blog post on Content First FTW.

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