Sometimes someone else exactly articulates something you’ve been trying to get across for years.
In this case, we stumbled across this article, published by Fast Company and written by Jerry Cao, Kamil Zieba, and Matt Ellis. These three UX geniuses, employed by UXPin, perfectly illustrate and describe the thought and rationale behind content-based web design.
High-quality, Engaging Content
The authors’ first argument outlines the importance of high-quality, relevant, and engaging content – this content is the context in which the design is created, and it’s the foundation of the validity and level of interest in your site. All the spectacular, eye-catching, unique design in the world can’t make a site appealing if the content is shoddy, uninteresting, or irrelevant.
Content Shapes the Tone of the Design
The second reason describes how content shapes the tone and ultimate usability of the design. The article argues that content’s end goal should be to humanize its interaction with the user, which in turn will inform humanized, relatable design. We always want our websites and the companies they represent to be self-explanatory; the content and the design, as the article so succinctly puts it, should “entice rather than just explain what the product does.”
Content is a Product, Design is the Packaging
Similarly, the third reason equates content to a product, and design to that product’s packaging. If the analogy were to be played out, designing a package before fully conceptualizing the content would be a little silly – imagine all the reconfiguring you’d have to do! This reason clarifies the need to know what you’ll be putting into your new site so that your design can be crafted accordingly, and not the other way around (since, as was previously mentioned, content is the foundation that builds a connection with the user).
Keep Responsive Design in Mind
The fourth and final reason relates to the relatively recent need to keep responsive design in mind – content-centric sites are the most mobile-friendly. Mobile, which requires content to be shifted around, calls for a very specific understanding of the amount and hierarchy of content in a page. Without this concrete understanding, mobile has the potential to get very messy.
Check out the article, and take a look at the many, many useful related articles to which it links. The authors bring up several points that are useful to us as web designers – we can create all the beautiful, minimalist designs we want, but unless we design with an eye to the actual content, we’re going to be left with a big mess to clean up when it comes to actual implementation. Our clients may find the article enlightening with regard to the rationale behind our typical order of operations – we usually ask for copy and images early on so that we can present you with visually stunning designs that are content-accurate.
Kudos to the authors – we loved the article!