Content vs. Design: Which One to Focus on First And Why?

Whether content or design should come first has always been an important question in the world of marketing — digital and print-based alike. The answer is not straightforward. Designers prefer to have content first, or at least a general idea of length and the main message, while copywriters like to see a layout or at least a mock-up of the design before they start writing. So who is right? Let’s take a look at both a content-first and a design-first approach and find out which would work better for your business.

Content and design go hand-in-hand

Before we delve deeper, it’s important to mention that content and design are equally important. Think of design as the body and content as the soul of any marketing material. On the other hand, when it comes to encouraging people to take action, content can still stand on its own, while design cannot. Imagine if you had to choose between a piece of copy that is well-written, concise, and tells you everything you need to know about a product or a service but doesn’t look impressive at all, and a perfectly designed website that is easy on the eye but has no relevant content on it. Which would encourage you more to take action and make a purchase? Neither is ideal, yet still, great content can stand alone when it comes to conversion marketing, while a good layout without relevant content is like a Ferrari without wheels — it’s nice to look at but it won’t take you anywhere. Keep in mind, content and design are strongest together.

You hook your audience’s attention with design and hold it with content.

Why is content king?

In 1996, Bill Gates penned an essay titled “Content is King” for the Microsoft website that has lived in infamy for 25 years. Gates starts the essay by predicting that content will become the internet’s moneymaker as technology progresses. And he was absolutely right — it’s good content that sells. Useful, relevant, and informative content should be the core of your marketing as it:
  • Brings relevant traffic to and generates organic traffic for your website.
  • Creates a connection through story between your brand and customers.
  • Encourages users to take action, request information, and make a purchase.
  • Helps search engines like Google rank your website highly.

Why is design indispensable?

There’s so much more to design than just making things look good. Design highlights the content, breathes life into it, and makes it shine. Design can:
  • Turn heads and attract eyes to your brand.
  • Enhance the experience customers have with your brand.
  • Influence your customers, oftentimes, with a feeling they can’t describe but know – like the warm and fuzzy feeling you get during holiday commercials.

Why should content come first?

A content-first approach is the overwhelming preference of most creatives. When crafted well, content becomes the guardrails surrounding the story or main message that needs to be told. It can help a designer better understand what the hook is for the reader and what needs highlighting. This makes the job of any designer much easier in creating a seamless flow toward a call to action. Furthermore, content writers are great with words. This doesn’t just mean that they can create outstanding copy that’s relevant for your audience, but also that they can translate your ideas and thoughts to a designer. A copywriter can help a designer better understand the main message, the purpose, and the big picture by finding the perfect words to express your ideas with.

Why should design come first?

From a marketing standpoint, this is a less popular approach. However, copywriters sometimes prefer an initial design or a basic sketch to provide a good frame for creating content which can also spark creativity. A design-first approach can help fight a writer’s block and can be useful, for instance, in situations where the copywriter is less experienced than the designer. Experienced copywriters are amazing at fitting content within constraints. Therefore, just as we looked at how content can act as a guardrail for design, this can also work vice-verse and design can set up guardrails for content, informing the copywriter of the amount of text needed.

The bottom line

A content-first approach is generally better as a copywriter can understand your business’ ideas, messages, and goals and find the perfect words to express them with. A designer can then make the content shine and help guide visitors’ eyes. In the end, you’ll have complete, strong, and coherent marketing assets. On the other hand, while it’s not always a viable option, another great approach to take is to let content and design work together. All creatives will need some alone time with marketing materials, a copywriter to write and a designer to work their magic, but the more they can communicate and collaborate the better. While most businesses and creatives prefer a content-first approach, after all, you always need to do whatever’s best for your business and whichever approach best suits your needs. At Little Jack Marketing, we can help you boost your marketing strategy, and create content that sells. Contact us today to find out more!

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