With careful language and curiosity, this short survey can create a connection with the user by showing interest in their needs and assisting them on their first journey with the app. In either instance, whether they are there to browse inspirational images or to find and hire an expert to help them with their project, they are greeted by name on their first screen with coach marks introducing them to the app and custom content catering to their goals. Unfortunately, the previous iteration of this app could never reach this level of empathy. It was merely created to get to the business of the screen designs and navigation through the product instead.
In conclusion, a brief history
These experiences that I’d been having first-hand were new for me, yet, the idea of content-first has been around for a while now. It was boldly brought to the conversation on May 5, 2008, when Jeff Zeldman, co-founder and publisher of A Book Apart, tweeted, “Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.”
He was getting to the crux of successful web and app design. We should always prioritize content to engage and retain our audience. The content plays the primary role in how the site functions. The language connects with the users and gives them a purpose for interacting with the design in the first place. So, instead of beginning the process with a mockup of how the design layout will be structured—with containers for images or text to be filled in later—lead with the content and then frame the design to support the language instead. This approach will establish a cohesive plan that offers the appropriate space for information based on its relevance in a flow that will make sense for the user. They’ll move on if this isn’t readily available to them or if it isn’t presented effectively.
“Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.”
We can achieve a compelling product by allowing writing and content to sit at the table from the beginning. Unlike what I was taught with the wireframe example earlier, it is counterintuitive to hold imaginary placeholders to fit the writing into at a later stage in the process. On the contrary, writing research should happen from the beginning, guiding the design that always refers to this initial directive. Because let’s face it, people aren’t coming to a site in search of the best page layout. They’re looking for information.
We have a ways to go, however. A robust method of thought that it should be container first and content later is still prevalent even today. While this wave of change has been slow to gain traction and momentum—it may be some time before content-first becomes the common denominator. In the meantime, writers and designers who understand the value of this collaboration need to continue to advocate for the process, always giving content-first a voice until it becomes the accepted standard in the field.
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