One of the most significant decisions in creating a website is whether you emphasize web content or design.
Both of these areas are important, but many people make the mistake of assuming that you should only focus on one of these two.
Realistically, any website should have a focus on both content and design, and doing so will help to move a site from being average to being a success.
The Argument for Content
Content is king.
That’s a very overused saying, but it does have some truth to it.
Content isn’t everything to a website, but it does play a huge role.
Most of the time, your content is critical for the purpose of your site.
For example, people visit sites for information and that information is provided through content.
This means that any website really has to focus on content.
This includes developing content well and also releasing content regularly.
Regardless of how much you love or hate writing, the importance of content really isn’t something that you can ignore.
If you write content badly, then the people that visit your site probably won’t stay there.
After all, poor quality content probably means that you aren’t providing your audience with much value.
Content is important for another reason too.
It’s what helps your site to rank.
The algorithms of Google and other search engines are increasingly focusing on the quality of content and the relevance of this content to the topic of the page and of the website.
This means that good quality content tends to get better rankings and attract more viewers, and this is absolutely critical to the success of the website.
The Argument for Design
Content is critical for many aspects of site success, but it is largely useless without good design.
In many ways, getting your website designed well is half of the battle.
Much of this is related to psychology.
When people visit your site for the first time, their first impression doesn’t come from your content.
In fact, people tend to form an opinion of your site based on what they first see.
This means that your site design can help to establish trust, but it can also act to turn your audience away.
This makes getting your design right the first time absolutely critical.
Many components of your site design influence what people think about it.
One example is whether your site looks professional.
If your site looks like something that was developed in five minutes by someone who didn’t know what they were doing – your visitors are going to assume that is who you are.
Likewise, if you develop your website using one of the common themes from WordPress (like the one below), you aren’t going to stand out from the pack at all.
In fact, these themes have become associated with low-quality sites, simply because they are used so frequently.
Your website needs to send the right message, and the design of the site is really what does it. If your design is off, you will lose potential customers long before they read your content.
Poor website design will do much more than scare people off.
Often, badly designed websites are hard to navigate, making it difficult for people to find the content they are looking for.
Other times, websites may make it difficult to read information.
For example, I have seen websites where there was too much jammed into a single page or where a complex background image was used, making it hard to see the text.
All of these things provide a strong indication that your website design is critical to the success of your site overall.
In fact, if you have any money to invest in your website, website design is one of the first areas that you should be considering.
Red Flags in Design
The design of your site has the power to trigger trust or distrust immediately – so you want to be certain that your site gets the reaction that you want.
The perfect design for you will depend specifically on your site and your content; however, there are some universal things that you want to be careful about.
#1 Any Issues with Navigation
Navigation lets people get around your site. If your navigation is bad everything is more difficult for your visitors.
Most visitors to your site won’t have a lot of patience, so if navigation is tricky, they won’t take the time to figure it out, they will just go somewhere else.
Lack of a search feature is also a navigation issue that sites commonly have.
Some website owners just don’t think of having a search feature, while others avoid having one to try and force users to a specific page.
However, if you don’t have a search feature, people can’t find the content they are looking for – and this is never a good thing.
#2 Too Much Going On
Web pages that are too busy and too cluttered can be a major issue for visitors.
These types of pages provide too many options, and this can make it difficult for visitors to work out what to do next. In fact, offering fewer options tends to result in more visitors going where you want them to.
#3 Poor Font Choices
The size and style of your font is critical for your website.
Whatever you choose should be easy to read, regardless of what device your visitors are trying to visit the site from.
If your font is too small, then people are going to have a lot of issues reading it, and that doesn’t bode well for your site as a whole.
On a website, you don’t want to be using too many fonts, but having a few can be beneficial.
In particular, using two or three fonts can provide you with a way to distinguish between different parts of your text, such as your main body, your accent and your headings.
#4 Slow Loading
Most people who browse online are impatient. If your site takes a long time to load, then they are probably going to go somewhere else.
There are a number of tools online that can help you find out how your site loads, and it’s really important that you take the time to figure this out.
Finding a Balance
Even once you realize that you can’t choose to focus only on web content or design, finding a balance between the two can be critical.
One question is, which do you focus on first?
Do you take the time to develop your content first, or do you invest in a good design then make your content fit into that design?
In reality, you should always start with your content.
Your content is what defines your site. It is what it makes your site different than your competitors and it is ultimately the part that your readers are interested in.
If you work on website design first, you will probably end up with a well-designed site, but a very poor link between your design and your content.
This can cause a huge number of problems.
For starters, you may well find that the website design simply doesn’t fit your content.
Perhaps the design assumes that your content is going to be shorter than it actually is, or maybe it assumes that you aren’t really going to have that many different categories.
People often find that their website design doesn’t take into account how their site is going to grow over time.
For example, I have seen many sites that list individual posts in drop down menus.
That’s an approach that looks fantastic early on.
However, once you start getting a lot of content on a site, those menus quickly get too full and start being very impractical.
If you take your current and future content into consideration when designing a website, you have the potential to design something that really will stand the test of time.
Designing for Content
When it comes to designing a site based on its content, the first step is to consider the overall aims of the website and what you already have in place.
One way of doing this is to create a rough site map, looking at the basic outline of your site, including the different categories you want and how individual pages should relate to other pages.
This allows you to figure out where you have enough information and where your gaps are.
This information is also critical for designing the site.
It means that you know things like how many categories you want to have, how content is going to connect across different pages and how the site is going to expand over time.
When you design with a strong emphasis on content you create a blueprint that can continue to guide your site well into the future.
However, if you are developing content first (and you really should be), there are some things to keep in mind.
First of all, don’t create the content within a single word document.
Your content isn’t a book.
You are basically creating separate articles. They may be linked to one another, but they have to be able to stand alone.
Many people create separate documents for each individual piece of content.
These documents can then be placed in folders based on the categories you are considering for them, or you can keep track of them in other ways.
An Excel file is another good approach, as this will also let you keep notes about the content.
Second, think about the design of the site as you develop content.
Ultimately, the best approach to any website is to think about your content and your design at the same time. Each of these elements will influence each other and thinking about either one on its own will probably lead to disaster.
A final thing to remember is that content isn’t just words.
Everything about how your content appears influences the message you send.
This includes the images you use, the links, the headings, the emphasis and everything else you can imagine.
All of these are things that you need to consider as you are writing your content and as you are designing your site.
In particular, there needs to strong alignment between the framework of your website and any visuals that you use.
You also need to take a consistent approach across your website, rather than using different approaches for different pieces of content.
Ultimately, it isn’t a question of web content or design, but rather a question of how you can make web content and design work together to produce a single coherent message.
This is true if you are designing your site yourself or if you are hiring a company to do some of the work.
Changes in Content and Design
As the internet changes, how we have to approach content must change too.
Currently, services like WordPress remain dominant. WordPress is a wonderful platform in many ways, but it is also restrictive.
In particular, the architecture of WordPress trends content as content, providing very few ways to differentiate between different pieces of content.
If you think about it, this is kind of a problem.
There are so many different types of content out there now, and they differ in their aims and in how they work.
Managing this on websites is difficult – because you basically have two options.
Either you use the same template for all types of content, or you use a complex and custom template for each different type.
The first option is restrictive, while the second one is complex, time-consuming and not always effective.
The second option makes it very difficult to make changes in the future, as each individual page would have to be changed.
For most sites, neither option is particularly desirable or practical.
Yet, these are the only options available.
This means that there is a revolution on its way.
It’s not here yet, but it will come.
The current approach simply isn’t working, and there are already people thinking and talking about alternatives.
One alternative that seems the most likely is modular content.
Honestly, modular content is pretty cool.
Instead of having a template that you have to follow, you end up with blocks of content.
These blocks can be rearranged with ease, allowing for pages that look vastly different than one another.
This approach would allow people to design pages based on what they actually need, rather than based on the restrictions of a template.
This wouldn’t completely replace the use of templates.
Instead, it would offer a different approach that is more relevant in many situations.
Modular content like I’m describing doesn’t fully exist yet, but there are some alternatives out there that provide some of the functionality.
In particular, some themes for WordPress offer modular approaches, such as the Divi theme for WordPress.
Personally, I imagine that the approaches to website design are going to continue to grow and expand in the future.
Nevertheless, it is important for anyone developing their website (whether it is their first or their 50th) to retain a strong focus on both content and design, and particularly on the relationship between the two.
Finding Your Solution
Balancing content and design is a good general aim but, of course, it is one of those things that sounds easier to do than it actually is.
One way to go about this is to get feedback as you go along.
The Wealthy Affiliate community can be a great option for this and Wealthy Affiliate itself is also a site that offers substantial training into many different areas of being successful online.
Even if you aren't certain it is worth taking the time to check out what Wealthy Affiliate has to offer. If nothing else, the site is free to join, so there is no risk on your end.