Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.
As a designer that cares greatly about content, I’m always banging on to my clients about the need to have content finalised before the design process starts. I’m not saying one is more important than the other but I am saying that content dictates design. It’s good practice to ensure that your content is mostly mapped out before you engage a designer.
Below are some reasons why your content should always come first.
Content shapes design
If you provide a designer with a blank piece of paper and say “oh I want something that looks good and sells my product” you’re going to end up with an end product that is nothing like what you had in mind. By providing your designer with content, you are giving them a story to design and are helping them to create a design that speaks to your audience. Your designer needs to understand the full picture of how your story works and the message you want to send to your audience. What’s your goal for this design piece? What do you want your customer to do with this design piece? All important questions to think about before you engage a designer.
Design needs to be able to help not inhibit
This is so important, especially with web design. Say you engage a designer to build your website. You have a rough wireframe laid out but you haven’t yet finalised your content. The designer goes ahead and starts designing your website without final content.
Say they start creating your call to action section (CTA); three text boxes side by side with icons above. They make it nice and pretty and ensure everything is balanced nicely in three neat columns. You come along with your content and one of the CTAs is twice as long so one of the columns which puts the column off balance with the other two. Your design is now not working in the best way for your content. Perhaps if the designer had your content before designing they would have displayed that section in a completely different way so that the content was easily readable and balanced.
Production time will be quicker
Like this blog I am writing, the first round of content is never the final round. Content will always go through a few rounds of proofing and editing. If you’re placing content in design without proofing it, you can guarantee that when you update your content the design will need to be altered also (as mentioned above). This leads to longer production time, more back and forward conversations with your designer than is necessary and often more room for error due to miscommunications. You will also find that most designers restrict the rounds of changes you’re allowed before charges are incurred so this can also be a costly learning experience.