Okay, that’s harsh. What I really mean is the term “Content First” has been taken too literal and creates drawn out projects, irritated clients, rushed content, and strains the client-agency relationship. But that title was too long.

What’s The Point of This Article?

After speaking with dozens of web and digital agencies, 100% of them complained about their clients not giving them content on time which turned a 3-month project into an 8-month project. I found a way to fix this and wanted to share. “I” is inaccurate. In reality, I have been lucky to work with some amazing minds where we created this strategy together.

[Client Translation: Most web shops require you to provide all the written content before design starts. Think about how hard that would be? You would be given a word doc and told “have fun, the deadline is in two weeks”. That was crazy to me and I had to fix it.]

Why Being So Literal Is Flat Out Wrong

“Content First” does not mean that content has to be written first. It means that content needs to lead design, and that is absolutely correct. In other words, the design should reflect the content strategy in order to create a great UX. Web copy can change at any moment, for any reason, by anyone, so why let how something is said hold up an entire project?

So How Do you Let Content Lead Design Without The Content?

Now that is a great question, Randall. I am glad you asked. The answer is “content architecture” (CA). The purpose of CA is to capture the “why” and page structure of each page.

This allows the designer to understand the flow and purpose of the page before starting the design, along with building in proper space for word counts. Here is an example of a simple CA for a homepage we built for a local company here in Denver.

Screen shot of a homepage content architecture.

With the CA approved by the client, design can now start while the content is written. This folds the project on itself and allows for multiple team members to be working at once rather than waiting for each other’s phase to be completed. We use “protocontent” instead of lorem ipsum to give the design more life. Read more about protocontent HERE

Here is how the approved content structure translated to the design.

Example of homepage design.