Which one Comes First: Design or Content?

Sooner or later you'll face: Do you have to know what the content is before you start designing?

Design Brief - What is it?

Knowing what content you have to work with helps to shape the design . Without defined and structured content, the design process can be much more frustrating. Content is what gives the website meaning: words that tell the brand's story, videos that show how the product works, and articles that explore ideas. In this article, we'll see the benefits of the content-first approach and who's responsible for creating content.

What is Content First Design?

Basically, the content-first approach means knowing the purpose of your design and how you're planning to achieve it before you start designing. Think about it: Architects don't start drawing blueprints before knowing what the buildings are for, right? Or: Package designers don't design packages for a product that hasn't been decided yet, do they? So it's clear that you need to know the content before designing.

Sometimes, you don't have the content right off the bat, and that's ok. But you need to have at least a rough idea, some content other than lorem ipsum. You can even use your competitor's content as a placeholder. In this way, the final content won't be drastically different from the draft.

Benefits of Content-first Design

Having to have the content of your website ready before starting designing can require little bit more work, but it's worth the effort. There're many benefits of using the content-first approach. Lets highlight just some of them.

  1. Build a better information architecture: Know the information you have and need makes it easier to define your overall sitemap.
  2. Avoid using lorem ipsum: Lorem Ipsum text fills the spaces but is meaningless. When you replace the text holder with real content, it can break the design completely.
  3. Creates consistency across your design: Know what content will be on the site, helps to make decisions holistically. This improves your design's consistency, look and feel, and usability.
  4. Avoid endless rounds of revision: Without knowing the content at the beginning your design will surely move back and forth making changes in the content.
  5. Helps in responsive design: When you know the real content it's easier to decide on breakpoints in the layouts and design with them in mind.
  6. Helps to prioritize SEO: Content is super important for search engines to find a website. It acts as a lighthouse for web crawlers by providing information they need to sort and rank a website.
  7. Streamlines the design process: With content-first approach everyone knows what to do and the boundaries for creativity are already set. This saves resources, headaches, time, and energy.

Who is Responsible for Creating Content?

Now that we've seen that content is important and it should be known right from the begining, you might be wondering where is it going to come from. The short answer is: Your client is the main responsible for creating content for their website. In some cases, they might have a team of writers who do the writing for them. But in most cases, they will create content themselves or ask a friend or a family member to do it for them. This can result in content that leaves a lot to be desired.

That's why it's important that designers know copywriting. That way, they can help their clients by offering this as an extra service. If you don't have the skill to create content for your client, you can leave room in the budget to hire a professional to do it.

What if your client doesn't understand the value of a good copy? Help them understand, preferably using an example of a copy that works. With respect and kindness, you can educate your client and help him understand the value and the impact a well-written copy can have on their revenue and brand awareness.


If you want to create meaningful and usable websites, content must be thought right at the beginning, not afterward. Use the content to define the layout and elements in a design; not the other way around. If you don't have the final content at the beginning, try using content that's similar to the one expected. You can reuse existing content, copy competitors' content or produce your own. This is often called proto-content. Remember: content is what makes people come to your website. The design helps to present this information in a good-looking and usable way. So make sure your content is well thought of right from the beginning.

Délcio Pechiço

Product Designer | Webflow Enthusiast | IT Support Technician | Background in Mining, Oil & Gas

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