Posted by Tamsyn Strike
If you read our recent Bauhaus article, you’ll be familiar with the phrase “Form follows function”: the idea that how something looks should be determined by its purpose. Whether it’s a building, logo, piece of print or website, most people realise that good design has a lot to do with how it works and not just how it looks.
When we carry out User Experience (UX) workshops, we take the time to fully understand the function of a new website. We explore core objectives, business goals, the audiences that will be using it, and what content they’re expecting to find.
Content plays a massive part in a website’s function, as its primary purpose and the heart of a user’s experience. Visitors come to a website to discover something, achieve something or communicate something. For each of these tasks, content (however long or short) is vital. Without it, there’s no substance.
That’s why it’s important to take a strategic approach to content; creating something valuable, relevant and consistent to attract and retain your audiences – it should never be an afterthought.
Jeffrey Zeldman, founder of A List Apart
Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.
Design follows content
A lot of the issues that crop up when creating a website do so because the design and build have leapfrogged content creation. Last-minute panics, late launches and over-designed (and unsustainable) templates are all common problems.
But perhaps the biggest issue is that starting to design without knowing what’s going on the page is like producing a piece of packaging when you don’t know what’s going in it. You could end up squeezing the product inside, forcing it to fit, or the product could be incredibly small, leaving you with acres of space around it. The same applies to web design; without knowing the content we could end up forcing images and copy to fit into templates, or we could end up with a website that looks empty.
Putting content first helps us deliver your business goals and user needs in an effective way. It’s also better from a practical point of view – we can design a website that works around the content you have. A new website is usually a significant investment, so it makes sense to create something as compelling and user-focused as possible.
The other benefits of putting content first
- You won’t be struggling to produce all of the site’s content in a big rush at the end; you can spread your work over a longer period of time.
- Finishing the content early-on reduces the risk of a delayed site launch.
- You can prioritise content that delivers your business goals and user needs, meaning you won’t be wasting time and money on unnecessary content.
- Designers avoid wasting time and budget on templates that fail to handle your real content.
- We can design and build a website that’s sustainable, increasing its long-term success and winning the trust of your users.
A new way of working
With content in its rightful place – at the heart of every website project – everyone involved can spend time thinking about exactly what it should achieve. Through audits, independent research and UX workshops, we learn more about a website’s audiences so that what goes on the page is unique, relevant and directly related to a user need.
Our long-held commitment to design effectiveness means we’ve never been an agency to simply make things look good. We know that the really powerful results come about when design is strategic and meaningful – when form really does follow function.