Content Precedes Design: Words Drive Optimal Web Design

Web content feeds web design

Content feeds design.

Web design exists to help people grasp and consume specific content.  Blogger Hafiz Rahman reminds us that design’s job is not simply to make any-old content look decent.  Its job is to help people gain the benefit of words, images, products or interactions they seek.

That’s the principle behind the claim “content precedes design.”  It’s also why much-admired Rahman urges designers to give up creating one-size-fits all themes.

Every business owner with a website can gain a lot from this plea to put content first.

Placing priority on substance is a reminder that serves us all very well.  Our love of eye candy can blind us to seeing the real value of our words and ideas to our online success.  Theme developer Jeffrey Zeldman clarifies beautifully:

Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.

It’s our message and offer that appeal to our visitors in the first place.  The substance on the page drives the value of our websites.

When you want to make sure your website is doing its best to connect you with your market, first check if you make plain what your people need to know.  When your visitors quickly grasp the most significant benefit, and they have reason to believe you, you are more likely to get what you ask.

A website for a business consultant is going to serve a specific market with specialized information. The look is optimal when easy use of the information drives form. Addressing the needs your target customer brings (not just delighting their eyes) is the key to moving people.

The substance of your page is the true value that pulls in visitors to come and use your website.  The design’s job is to get out of the way.  It starts working when your visitor sees the value in your offer, from the first glance around your page.

Thanks to Themeshaper’s Ian Stewart for calling out Rahman’s case for priority-driven web design.

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