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Successful Web Design: Content First, Then Visuals
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Successful Web Design: Content First, Then Visuals

Design Advice
Published by Britney Na on 10.15.13

Many web development projects start with a design first approach, in order to provide the best user experience a content-focused design should be considered. Find out several ways to plan for this method of design on your website.

I regret to say that web designers are not superhuman. It seems like I often encounter clients who have the expectation that the success of the website's design is based on how cool the website looks with stunning graphics and fancy interactions. While updating the look and feel of the site takes a big part of the web design, I regretfully have to say that this is a myth. A successful web design is when users are able to come to the website and spend less time searching for the content they want and more time consuming real information. This is a basic principle of good user web experience. Beautiful visual design may initially attract more eyes, but it doesn’t warrant good user experience. We certainly have the expertise to guide clients in ways to improve user experience, but what clients often don’t realize is that the power of great user experience lies in their hands rather than ours.

"The truth is that a website’s content matters more than beautiful visual designs ever will."

Laptop ImageThe truth is that a website’s content matters more than beautiful visual designs ever will. Therefore, the actions of the client’s content authors are what ultimately determine the success of the web design. Content plays a huge role in shaping user experience. When we do user interviews, people usually have little to say about a site’s colors, graphics, or animations, but they can tell us all about how painful it is to navigate to the page they want, how they often just leave the website because they can’t easily find what they want, how labels don’t make sense to them at all, or how all the flashy banners and rotating images just distract them from what they are trying to accomplish.

Yet, when we do a design project, content is often the last thing that is considered. Toward the end of a project, when everyone is pressured with finishing the project on time, there is not much time or thoughts that goes into entering content. More planning and discussion efforts should be made in the early stages of the project to assess how well the content you have tells a story about your company. What you decide with the content should drive the web design project, and every design decision should be based on whether a proposed solution complements or obscures the content.

Here are a few things to consider when planning a content-focused design:

  1. Be clear about the overarching content structure. Top-level categories are like a big picture of your organization. There should be no mystery about what those labels mean. Visitors should understand how content is grouped and what’s included in each main category by scanning the site’s global navigation.
  2. Start the content audit as early as possible. Make sure you can tell what the main content is about on each page. Stick to one or two topics and focus on what you want users to learn from the page.
  3. Let the main content drive what else needs to stay on the page. It’s okay to link to other pages rather than trying to include every bit of information about the topic on one page. With clear section navigation labels and links, users will be able to find out where they need to go for more information.
  4. Use your web agency for help if you aren’t sure. If your web agency recommends changes to the existing content hierarchy, trust their expertise. These experts can give recommendations that are proven to work from their experience. If something doesn’t make sense to those designers, chances are your end users will have similar difficulties using your website.

There’s a lot more to web design than graphics and layouts. Everyone wants a nice-looking site, but even the most beautiful site on the web is going to be worthless if users can’t find the information they need. That’s why you need to make sure that content is an integral part of any design project. Diagram can work with you to find out what needs to be done to give your users the best experience possible on your site. With a great visual design on top of this foundation, you can achieve the maximum potential for your site and meet your business goals. Please contact us if you have any questions, or if you would like to learn how we can help you make the most of your site’s content.

Photo Credit:www.hubspot.com

 

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