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Valuing Content as Part of Design
Dec 21, 2009 Published in design
Keywords: branding, content, strategy, website
There is a tendency when planning a new website, or recreating an existing one, to compartmentalise things as much as possible. The focus often shifts to the design, seen in isolation, from the content that will fuel the site. This makes the process simpler and more comprehensible but also weakens the site if the resulting design and content do not coordinate.

One of the ways this can happen is the design of a site is outsourced and placed into the hands of “experts”. It is easy to place a great deal of power and expectation in any design company. Design briefs are often written in a deeply aspirational fashion, “We want our new site to make us appear modern/innovative/reliable/global/approachable…” Of course visual design plays a major part in creating any brand perception but the greatest design in the world is only part of the equation.

Content is important in reinforcing, and following through on, the first impressions made from the visual design. The visual design is usually creates the first perceptible statement of a website but without a coordinated statement from the content the power of that first impression can become diluted. If both can be harmonized the power of each component becomes magnified and the overall impression the site creates is focussed and compelling.

Even content has separate elements when thinking about creating a website. It is not just about the quality of the writing. It would be lovely to have every piece of content crafted by great writers, but the choice of what kind of content to provide is at least as important as the quality of the writing.

If you are trying to present your company as informed, active and innovative but your news content has not been updated for two months you are undermining yourself. If you are presenting teamwork as vital to the ethos of your company but the only profiles you present on your site are of your top-level executives you are sabotaging that impression.

There are two ways to deal with this issue; one is to examine what content you have or can easily create and sustain basing your site around that and the other is to outsource your content provision. Both approaches can work. The pertinent question is do you wish to present yourself as you are or as you would like to be?

Valuing what you will use your website to say as much as how you say it allows the creation of a much more powerful presence. A clear vision of content helps to sharpen any proposed design by contextualizing the design. It is well worth considering using a content strategist to advise you on how to get the most out of your site, bringing content and presentation into harmony allows you to tap into the full power of your website both now and moving into the future.

By Ruben Kenig
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