Business owners in the market for a new website always prioritize “design” over any other website feature. For them, content is a secondary concern, far less important than design.
This is completely backwards.
You can’t design a website effectively in a vacuum. You’ve got to have something to design, and with websites, that’s content.
The famous quote by Jeffrey Zeldman back in 2008 (shown in the featured image above) drives this point home.
Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.
Physical art starts with a blank slate, and then we use tools like a canvass, paper, paint brushes, materials, or whatever else we need to make “art”.
But this is NOT how websites work.
Your website is defined by your content, audience, and the connection between these two things. Focusing on design before having any content is a complete waste of time and money.
You shouldn’t even be thinking about things like fonts, color schemes, or other design elements initially. Your first thoughts should be about informational and organizational presentation. Things like navigation, basic content styles, promotion and connection.
Fact is, you could achieve 95% of your “audience connection” with nothing more black text on a white background (and content images for visual effect, of course) with ZERO effort toward design.
The other 5% of “connection” is achieved through modest design components that enhance your message and serve your audience.
Look, I’ve been marketing online since the mid 2000s and I have made every mistake possible. I spent years with a “design-first” mindset, only to figure out that when it comes to website profitability, minimal or even flat out “ugly” design outperforms the shiny new design trend in most cases.
It takes a lot of experience and time to come to grips with the basic reality that “content precedes design”.
Everyone shares the desire to put our best presentational foot forward from the very beginning. It’s the same as dressing appropriately for a social occasion.
But even if you have the time and resources to devote toward a better design than your competitors, why not produce content for things that matter, like creating lead magnets, building your email list, answering common questions on your blog, and working on your visibility?
These are the things that actually build your business online, not your website design.
Bottom line? Content has got to come before design.