Content or Design: Which Comes First?

The question of content or design first is the age-old “chicken vs the egg” debate in marketing.

Undoubtedly, both qualities matter immensely for all marketing materials, but which do you start with?

Oftentimes, you hear each party say they would appreciate some guidelines from the other. Many content writers want the layout of the campaign they are writing for, and designers want an idea of the content they design for.

Whether content or design comes first depends on several key factors. Today, we’ll share what you need to know about choosing design or content first for your marketing materials.

Content-First Approach

Many designers prefer a content-first approach when creating their design elements. As Bill Gates says, “content is king.” Designers can leverage the content outline to create a cohesive design, a powerful vessel for the message. The top benefits of a content-first approach include:

● Content creates logical constraints and guidelines for the design.
● Save time on design and edits when the key content is already written. It’s much easier to edit content than full designs.
● Ability to create designs that enhance the content and adhere to the goals of the content strategy.
● Build up a bank of excellent content to repurpose and reuse.

It’s important to remember that not all content needs to be done before design in a content-first approach. Instead, focus on crafting content for the primary elements. This is especially true for materials like a website, funnel, or workbook template.

When creating a website with the content-first approach, you do not have to complete every single page on the site. However, it’s wise to craft the content for the main pages like the home page, contact page, primary service pages, and a couple of blog posts. By doing this, you can focus on storytelling that compels your audience, rather than cramming words into preset boxes.

Design-First Approach

Despite the benefits of a content-first approach, the design-first approach has its place. 93% of all human communication is visual. With this approach, aspects of the design process begin before the content. In a competitive digital world where design matters heavily, it can help to grab attention and appeal to your target audience.

Here are some of the reasons content creators may prefer a design-first approach:

● The design creates boundaries for writing. Sound familiar? While content helps create constraints for design, the design does the same for content. Knowing the basics of the design elements helps writers create content logically.
● Design is less intimidating than a blank page. It can spark creativity and give content creators a great base to work off of.
● Adherence to branding. All successful design adheres to branding (colors, fonts, image styles, etc.) Having these basics laid out ahead of time can help content creators craft content that better embodies the brand.

Just like with content-first, the design-first strategy does not mean all graphic design must be complete before any content is written.

Content or Design Which Comes First

Content and Design Work Together

In modern marketing, design and content must collaborate for the most compelling outcomes. The look and feel of your content matters just as much as the content itself. The ultimate goal is to determine the desired action you want to engage your audience with. Then you must leverage both design and content to deliver a user experience that compels users to your desired action.

In reality, it is not “design vs content”, it is about how to best use both together. Collaboration of design and content is paramount for creating the most powerful version of each.

There are so many places where design and content come together, and not just in the form of written content. Some examples include:

● Infographics
● Worksheets
● Websites
● Funnels
● Social media posts
● Branded videos
● And many more

Rather than thinking of “design before content” or “content then design”, view them as a collaborative function. Guiding both should be a strong content strategy. The strategy provides the outline for every piece of content, and thus guides your design and content creation.

As mentioned for both the design-first and content-first approaches, creating a basic framework is the first step. Having a general idea of the content length, call-to-actions (CTAs), desired user behavior, etc., can help designers, plus having a basic outline of the design helps content creators.

Instead of creating content and design as linear functions, bring both sides together from the beginning. Plan for the different content types as a cohesive unit. This requires mockups, layout creations, and drafts from both sides. Rather than developing one aspect entirely before another, take a collaborative approach all the way through. Both designers and content creators should map out the storyline and narrative structure to enhance the user journey and promote conversions.

Engage 2 Engage is Here to Help

Ultimately, content nor design should “come first”. Both should be developed concurrently through collaboration. While this strategy tends to be the most effective and timesaving in the end, it can be difficult to know where to start. That’s where we come in.

Engage 2 Engage is here to help entrepreneurs and small businesses create winning marketing strategies that drive results. We’ll help you create and implement a strong system for design and content collaboration to put you on the road to marketing success. Learn more about our program services today!


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