Content before design: What it means and why it’s important


When you hire a web agency to do your new website, they often talk about how sleek your new website will be  – it’ll be chalked full of SVG animations, parallax scrolling and some other next-level voodoo magic that you’ve never heard of.

Focusing on design right from the beginning can be a costly mistake.

There, I said it. The graphic designers out there can throw all the rotten fruit at me that they want, but I know I’m right. Here’s why:

If you don’t know what’s going on the website, how could you possibly know what to design?

So many web agencies jump the gun and begin designing a layout for a client’s website before they even know what’s supposed to go on the page.

This leaves the people who are responsible for content struggling to break up thoughts into sections that make no sense, just so they’ll fit within web page templates that were prematurely designed at the outset of the project.

Rather than making the content fit into the design, the design should be built around the content

Think about building a house.

The content of the website is the foundation and the graphic design is the interior decorating. If you don’t have an idea of the size and layout of the house, how do you know how to decorate it? It would end up being a mess. The same goes for content and design on websites.

Still, be sure to get your graphic designer involved early on

I’m not saying you should block your designer out of the project until you have all of your content ready. I’m just saying you should have them wait until you have an idea of what’s going on each page before you get them to start designing layouts.

Get your graphic designer involved as early as possible. Another talented set of eyes can offer some really valuable input on content and different ways it can be presented.

Below is a high-level view of our process for making a website. Even though each stage has a clear primary resource (for example our web developer would be the primary resource for the development stage), we involve everyone on the team in every stage. This ensures a well rounded project with all eyes on it from beginning to end:

  1. Discovery
  2. Architecture & Content Creation
  3. Visual Design
  4. Website Development
  5. Testing & Launch

The bottom line

If an agency you’ve hired jumps straight into designing their next Picasso masterpiece, just be sure that they’re not focusing on the wrong things too early on. The last thing you want is a website that looks great but when people go to visit it, they’re left dumbfounded trying to figure out what it’s about and what they’re supposed to do.

Remember – function before form.

If you’re in the process of evaluating web agencies, ask them about their production process and at what stage they start designing. What are the prerequisites before entering the design phase?

Hopefully this helps you with your next web project. If you have any questions or tips leave a comment below or send me an email at

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