Designing Without Content Is Like Tailoring Without Measurements.

Content is one of design's integral components. Yet, when it comes to design, it's not unusual to find content lingering last in the priority queue. While it's understandable why other components such as interactions or layout may eclipse content, it's also unsurprising why disasters may emerge after a design has been finalized in the absence of content.

A Case For Content-First Approach.

Content encompasses all textual elements—from the primary text in a headline to the minor text in a button label, to the paragraphs of text all in between; as well as other multimedia and images. It serves to inform and instruct users of a brand's core values and identity.

To design in the absence of content is to assume that content merely supports the design. However, the reality is it's the other way around. To expand on the title of this insight—content is like a set of measurements that dictates the final look of a design. Ultimately, it doesn't matter how beautiful or thoughtful a visual design is if it's loosely or tightly fitted around the content.

Picture a scenario where a design with Lorem Ipsum placeholder content and stock images are approved and the client is to plug their actual copy and images into the placeholders after the handover. It's rare for the actual titles, descriptions and labels to match precisely the 20, 100 or 5 character space. It's likely that the result would encounter text overflow, mismatched proportions, or even a change of heart on some of the design elements.

With this approach, it's highly likely that we end up with a scenario that requires many adjustments and re-adjustments, which ultimately reflects a rather unwise use of time and resources.

Employ a Content Strategy.

Content Strategy is a broad terminology that may mean different things in different fields. In UX, however, content strategy essentially advocates for a content-led approach, as previously discussed.

Content Audit.

There's no better time to conduct a content audit than during a redesign phase. Prior to redesigning an old website, the process of conducting a content audit allows a team to sift out and differentiate fruitful content from futile ones. It also allows for categorizing existing content into content types, subjects, topics, and categories that paves the way for content improvement.

Content Creation.

Content creation begins with understanding the audience's needs and meeting those needs. This can be done through exercises like—

Content Journey Mapping. Like any other Journey Mapping, a Content Journey Mapping outlines how each content pieces relate to one another to shape the customer journey on a website on an app.

Information Architecture / Sitemaps. The drafted content can then be organized, structured and labelled into the navigation of a website or an app in a logical manner. This is done using a blueprint known as the Information Architecture / Sitemaps, where content is hierarchically categorized to make it easy to visualize, add, remove or edit content. Once we have an outline of the Information Architecture, we can then begin our actual content development and editing process.

Information Architecture / Sitemap.

Structured Content.

At Mäd, while we always encourage our clients to champion a Content-First Approach, we acknowledge that it's not always feasible to have the content planned before we commence a design project for several reasons. The reality of content planning, production and maintenance requires a lot of time and effort, to name a few.

This is where a Structured Content approach would come into play. Structured content doesn't necessarily require a final signed-off version of the content. It's simply a plan that outlines the different content required to communicate the brand's core values, identity, and other necessary messages. They typically comprise of headlines, body, copy, photos, videos, gifs, illustrations, icons etc.

Having structured content is crucial to team alignment. It creates a common language for cross-functional teams like designers, developers, project managers, and content writers to collaborate smoothly and effectively.

Lorem Ipsum: A Last Resort.

There may be times when we are forced to make the best out of an unideal scenario. In instances where factors like time and resource constraints may hinder a Content-First Approach, we can employ Lorem Ipsum placeholders as a last resort.

It's worth noting again, however, that the use of placeholder content should be the last resort and does not substitute real content. Remember, fake content only leads to fake confidence. It's not only flimsy; it's also risky. However, given that other temporary content measures are available such as competitor's content, existing content, or draft content, there really is no need to surrender to Lorem Ipsum.

Final Thoughts.

Purposeful Human-centric designs require high-level thinking from the project's conception stage. It always comes back to the battle between speed vs efficiency and between quality vs quantity. Although shortcuts are tempting, ultimately, they only result in long delays. With that said, a Content-Led Approach is a path to ensuring concise, fluid and cohesive designs.