What Comes First — Content Or Design? The Chicken Or The Egg Dilemma — Agency Style

By Lisa Hirst Carnes | August 2019

If a website was a person, content would be the heart. It’s THE essential element, the life-force, and without good content, your website won’t thrive. 




In the mid-1990s, websites were essentially online brochures. Design and functionality took a backseat to the words on the page. Fast forward a couple of decades and things have pretty much flip-flopped.

Now, website redesign projects often focus too much on visual design and functionality at the expense of the content and messaging. In a sense, we’ve forgotten why people visit a website. The majority of the time, they’re there to get information. 

Treating content as an afterthought creates a multitude of problems, from missing deadlines to launching a website that fails to achieve objectives and goals. This isn’t a new dilemma. Digital agencies have been debating the chicken or the egg with regards to design and content since the beginning of time. 

At ArcStone, our process places content at the heart of a redesign project. Our process relies heavily on collaboration and content and design moving in tandem because the dilemma of the chicken or the egg rings so true. How can you write content when you don’t know what the page layout will look like? Similarly, how can you design a page layout without understanding what the core message is?

See what I’m getting at? It’s tough to do one without insights from the other. 

ArcStone stresses content at every step of a typical website redesign project and offers a pragmatic approach to writing content that supports your website’s goals. 

You may be tempted to reduce your website redesign budget by writing the content yourself but in our 22 years of experience, this rarely turns out well.


Here’s why.

  • Writing for the web is vastly different than writing other sales collateral pieces.
  • Brands don’t usually have a person dedicated to writing website copy. It most likely falls to a person who already has a full plate of work. 
  • It’s hard and it’s time-consuming. 
  • Content is central to the success of your website redesign project and shouldn’t be treated as an afterthought. 
  • Too many more to list in a blog post, contact us and we'll give you more details. 

As you may have gathered, writing content isn’t for wimps. To do it successfully, it requires a solid process, good communication, and ongoing collaboration. content-or-design-first

Follow our 5 Tips for a Successful Project


1. Onboarding - The Devil is in the Details

When we close a new project, we start the onboarding process. In short, during this phase of the project, we make sure that goals and deliverables are clear. We also compile any assets, logins, and information we need to execute the project. We also confirm who will be responsible for writing the content. This may seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked. 

2. Sitemapping - The Roadmap for Your Content

The sitemap is a hierarchical roadmap that shows every page / piece of content on your website. With an accurate sitemap, you can make a comprehensive spreadsheet of all the content you’ll need to write to launch your new site. 

3. THE Content Spreadsheet - The Holy Grail

The content spreadsheet can make or break a content project. It’s imperative that you Keep it up to date and insist that all team members use it. The content spreadsheet shows critical information such as the page names, current page URLs, the links to page briefs, and content draft documents. 

We like Google Drive because it’s easier to collaborate. Sending Word or Excel files back and forth gets confusing very quickly! Trust us on this one!

4. Key Page Briefs - What’s On the Page?

What is a Page Brief?
As the name suggests, a page brief is a short document that captures vital information including, primary messaging, the objective of the page, desired action, audience, and any required messaging. 

Minimally, page briefs should be done for the core site pages. Once briefs are complete, link to them from your content spreadsheet. 

5. Wireframes - The Key to Characters and Word Count

According to Wikipedia, a website wireframe, also known as a page schematic or screen blueprint, is a visual guide that represents the skeletal framework of a website. Wireframes are created for the purpose of arranging elements to best accomplish a particular purpose.

Read this for more on wireframes.

In essence, wireframes arrange the elements on a page and show how much space you have for your content. Without wireframes, you’ll most likely write content that’s too long and doesn’t look right on the page. Keep in mind that writing for the web should be concise and snappy.

Writing content for your new website doesn’t have to be a bad experience. We’re here for you and we’re happy to help you with your next redesign/content project. 

Topics: Tips and Tricks, Digital

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