A site built on content

A strong website is built on the fairy tale combination of visual design, functionality and content. When balance of these three elements is achieved, it is pure pleasure.

Visual design is just sexy, right? When we see those wireframes turned into something that looks simply beautiful then you might as well go home. The site is basically finished.

Just need the programmers to code it’s function and we’re all set to hit the interwebs with one pretty hot and tasty website. Right?

Well, no.

It’s not ready. Because at some point someone needs to turn that lorem ipsum into actual words. Words that inform, convert, sell, inspire. Words that talk to your user in an engaging one-on-one conversation.

It is a universal truth that when someone is asked to give their opinion about a website, they tend toward the visual and comment on the look and feel. Which makes sense. Words don’t visually delight – except to a few small fontophiles.

Words are the poor cousins to design. And they are the poor cousins to functionality. (Sometimes they don’t really rate a mention at all.)

But as soon as you ask someone to actually do something on that site… well, then that cousin becomes a beautiful swan. Mixed metaphors aside, this is the point at which content matters. Because any website at all must have purpose and the purpose will translate into action. And action is guided by content.

All of a sudden it really is all about the words. Words as labels, words as text, words as instructions, words in forms …

And not just words, we are talking about other content too: images that illustrate, diagrams that explain, visual indicators that guide… Where and when these are used are content decisions, because the creation of a pleasing user experience requires delivery of the purpose.

The purpose informs the content, and the purpose and content inform the design … and yet we tend to leave content until after everything else is complete with the expectation that content creation will be straightforward. That it will just happen. Which is not always the case.

There ends the cautionary tale, with one final piece of advice. Attack your web development project with a firmly defined content strategy, and begin to design and build your content as you design and build the container that will deliver it. Let design, function and content interact as equals.