How to approach web content

In this article, I want to argue that designing websites without a great content is like writing a book without having anything to say.

Having worked on many web project with different kinds of people, I often struggle with one thing: not having a real web content when designing.

This, unfortunately, is the case with most of the smaller projects, since there typically only is one designer, one developer and one project manager involved. The client is – kind of – responsible for the content.

An uneducated client, as he usually has no idea about web design (and that's ok),  expects you to deliver a website based either on the old web content or on a copy scraped together from company's random print materials.

Just fill the blanks with a placeholder content, such as lorem ipsum and stock photos. The client will revision the content later by himself.

WRONG.

In this article, I want to argue that designing websites without a great content is like writing a book without having anything to say.

Why designing with real content matters

Let's face it: the reason why we visit websites is the content they offer us. Nobody returns to a website just because the design is nice (unless he/she is a web designer seeking for inspiration - but that is probably not the type of user you are designing for).

A purpose of a website is – in most of the cases – simply to make money. It doesn't have to necessarily sell anything directly, but it should be a part of more complex marketing strategy. Therefore, it should have a specific goal.

The web content should be tailored specifically to support this goal.

If you're designing a website without a clear idea about its content, you should take a step back. What are you trying to achieve by launching the site? What is your main business goal? And how does this website addresses it?

These are the questions you will ask yourself at some point. This should be in the concept stage, rather than after the design phase.

The role of a web designer is to meaningfully arrange the content into user-flows, pages. It's not in his competence to create the content. That is work of copywriters, photographs, illustrators, content-strategists.

Sure, you can have a website designed using lorem ipsum and stock images. But then you are creating just a generic, mediocre website, without having anything remarkable to say. And that might be enough for you. But then you don't need a designer and developer. What you really need is a $30 template or some kind of ready-made solution like Wix or Squarespace.

Macbook scene

Welcome to our website!

So why isn't anyone paying attention to the content?

It might be because something like writing bit of text seems like a trivial thing to do. Everybody can write, right? I can't design, so I hire a designer. I can't code, so I pay a programmer to do it. But writing about my company or about myself, what I do or what I sell, that is something I can do the best!

BZZZ! WRONG AGAIN!

Authentically writing about who you are and what you do is not enough. If you are not a marketer or copywriter, you probably won't write a compelling web copy. What you will end up instead is a boring text nobody will remark on or engage with.

Creating a great web content takes a lot of time. It means creating a real value, the visitor can profit from. It may mean hiring another person for your project. And after launching the website, the work only begins.

Don't expect to launch a website and then not to touch it for two and half years. After that period, people usually start to realize it's obsolete and needs a redesign. A redesign based on the exact same content. By adding a big image carousel to the homepage. Because that's the thing you were missing!

I think you see where I'm going.

How to approach web content

First, you should realize, how important the web content is. And it really is far more important than a graphic design or a technical solution.

Second, you should make yourself clear, what the goal of the website is and how the web content is going to support it. Ask yourself following questions:

  • How are the people going to find out about the website?
  • What actions are they going to perform on the website?
  • How does this action support the marketing strategy?
  • What type of content can you provide to convince the user to perform the desired action?
  • What content is going to make the visitor want to return?
  • Who is going to create the content?
  • Is this person really competent to do it?
  • Is the content providing a real value for the visitor?

Creating a great content is hard. But it's what the visitor is coming for. Make sure your client understands it as well. Take a look at the competition and the content they are providing. Try creating something unique. Here are some content types you to consider:

  • Blog articles
  • Case studies
  • Reviews
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • E-Books
  • Newsletter
  • Quality photography (no stock!)
  • Freebies

Summary

To wrap it up: designing a website without real content is designing in a vacuum. Without a great content, your website is not going to turn out anything near remarkable. You should make yourself clear what the goal of the website is and create a content specifically for that purpose. Creating great content is hard but it's far more important than a screen design or a technical solution. A great content is what makes people remark about and what makes them share your website.

Filip Pižl

Filip Pižl

Filip is a Czech interactive designer, living in Dresden, Germany. He focuses on UX/UI design and strategic web design.