Monday, May 4, 2015

Content first - Design second

The user experience of websites (desktop,  tablet,  mobile,  whatever) has had a bit of a shake up recently and I think we need to reassess how we approach the development of online content.

Back in the old days of web design and development things were a lot easier. You created a single set of user personas & wire-frames, created a set of designs for the optimum desktop resolution and then coded it up for a handful of recently released browsers.

But that's all changed now and website owners now have to consider a multitude of devices and specifications to gain the most compatibility. In fact, 'mobile first' is now the new mantra for a lot of agencies and in-house teams, who recommend that you get the experience for smallest screen worked out first and move on from there.

But I think they also have missed a trick....It is not just the user experience of your site you have to make sure is usable for all devices, it is the content too. Yes, I am referring to the humble old words and pictures that a lot of digital projects leave to the very last minute, before cramming into a few templates that 'sort of work'.

If we just took more care over the actual content of our sites and planned the user experience around it, rather than considering what we are actually saying and showing to users only towards the end of the process, I think things might be somewhat different. And I'm not just talking about the typical content sites (news, publishers, etc.) here but also brands, eCommerce vendors and other companies with online functionality.

So before you start to plan how your new site will be designed, consider that:
- content has a key role to play in Search Engine Optimisation
- users with low bandwidth (e.g. with a mobile device) will usually have text downloaded first
- having readable text is a major accessibility feature
- introduction, help and error messages can significantly affect your conversion rate

In other words: Content first - Design second 
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