Design or Content?
The design of a website is the framework that your content rests in. It’s the wrapping and the manual all in one. Design includes the layout, the way that widgets are presented, the typography, the banner advertisements, and the site’s navigation.
When you replace the text with nonsense, the design is what’s left.
Your content consists of all of the writing and other media that you’re doing for the site, and it is generally thought to be the valuable portion of a website. But is it?
There are lots of sites out there with great content that are ignored because no one can navigate the site. Web sites have undergone several significant waves of style as technology improved.
These days, people want something that looks as professional as any newspaper or magazine. Bad design is a factor in high bounce rates.
On any given day, I spend at least an hour going from website to website reading the news and performing research on ways to make money online. I’ve seen a LOT of junky site design.
There are site designs I run from:
Sites made before Y2K and pre-CSS
I think that we’ve gotten pretty far with WordPress and other CMS systems to safely retire websites which overuse frames, blinking text, and huge highlighted sections. Yes, these types of websites still exist. You’ll still find the rare webmaster who believes that this type of website is the best, but CSS-based sites look much better and function much better.
Websites where the point isn’t immediately clear
Time is valuable. You should be able to look at any site and be able to tell what type of site it is within the first few seconds. For instance, you should know that I teach people how to make money from blogging at a glance. If it’s not immediately clear, I’d love to hear your suggestions on how I can do this better.
Websites which are cluttered
Have you seen those sites which are giant repositories of links or information? This type of site normally goes hand-in-hand with the first site design. There are articles everywhere, like a hoarder had just let you into their lair. You might find something about apples followed by a great article about how water is the key to losing weight. There’s poor categorization, no search, and no tags.
Websites which can’t be navigated
My mom told me that the way to get un-lost is to retrace my steps. While this might work to successfully navigate my way out of an Ikea, it’s not an effective strategy for a website anymore. No one wants to click back 3+ times to get back to your main webpage. This is why breadcrumbs were invented.
Websites which are unreadable
Some fonts are unreadable on the screen. If I can’t read your content, I’m not going to come back. Your job as a web designer is to make my reading as easy and beautiful as possible. Please stay away from crazy fonts and putting in 7 different kinds of font in the same page. It’s very jarring!
When first starting, should you pour a lot of time into website design?
No. Absolutely not. I may seem like I’m contradicting myself above, but the standard CMS packages like WordPress have enough design goodness baked into them that you can get away with keeping it simple. Start off with only the basics:
• Come up with a great domain name
• Purchase the domain name
• Host the domain name with a separate service
• Install WordPress
• Install social plugins
• Put in a couple of affiliate links
• Start producing content
Another reason why content should be first is that your content is going to dictate parts of your design. As you decide what you’ll be writing on, categories and other features will change. These will all factor in to things like menu construction and widget placement.
You might want to have one section take precedence over the other. You might want to create a forum. In other words, it’s difficult to know exactly what you want until you’re knee deep in the site.
I tell you this from experience. Bloggingbusinesstips.com started out with a simple design. I knew what I wanted to do. I had a blueprint. There were things that I wanted to see and things about which I could have cared less. And, like every business out there, there are certain nuances and little tweaks which are important to some and not to others.
Keeping it simple and providing value far outweigh the design. Design is the icing on the cake, but remember that most people won’t eat cake if the icing looks awful.
When should I make it fancier?
Honestly, that’s up to you.
When I started making money with my blog, I reinvested some of that money into the creation of content. I also took a bit of the money and placed it into the site design of the blog. Take some notes about the design of the blog and what you would like to see changed.
Keep adding to that list over the course of a month. While you are providing consistent content, you will most likely start to notice where you can customize your blog (you can customize anything, of course).
At the end of a month, you’ll most likely have a better idea of the direction of your blog as well as the main thrust of your blog. You might have found that you’re gravitating toward certain topics.
From there, you can unite the great design in your head with the content that you are producing.
Content or design? The content side
A site doesn’t have to be stuffed with lots of content to make the grade, but it does have to be stuffed with valuable content. I’ll go back to a less-than-perfectly designed site which tells me what I need to know long before I will go to a beautiful fluff site.
Here are some guidelines for the creation of valuable content.
Write with your reader in mind
Your reader doesn’t want to hear about you. They want to know what you can do for them. This means that those posts which highlight the 15 reasons to hire an electrician are relatively useless. Your readers want to know about the benefits that your service can offer them, they want to know what pain points that you can solve.
So, if you’re an electrician, talk about how they can save money, how they will no longer be in the dark, how they are preventing fires. In other words, focus on benefits, not features.
Focus on ‘how’ rather than ‘that’
Rather than creating a list of suggestions, take the next step and focus on how those steps can be implemented. Let’s say that you’re in the fitness industry and your latest article has ‘drinking water’ as one of the suggestions for losing weight.
Talk about how you can put drinking water into your daily life by setting a glass on your nightstand table before you go to sleep, filling up a gallon jug to carry around with you while you are walking, and so forth. Value is created with implementation.
Mix your media
There are visual learners out there just as there are ‘word’ learners out there. By incorporating the use of pictures into your blog posts, you are attracting both types of audience. The use of pictures also breaks up the text enough so that your readers get a break and they stay longer on your site.
Since video is perceived as one of the most valuable forms of media, shoot small videos to enhance your content. The perceived value will go up.
Both site design and content are necessary for your site. I believe that content takes a higher priority though. What do you think? Would you be more prone to come back to a site which has mediocre content and fantastic site design or fantastic content and mediocre design? I’d love to read your comments and answer your questions below.