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No amount of design can fix your lousy content.

Yes, trying to fix bad  content with a shiny new design is considered lipstick on a pig.

"Well this is exciting. it's Q1 and management has approved the budget to finally redesign the company website. It's not a huge budget, but boy oh boy is it gonna be great to finally fix all the things we hate about our current website. I mean it's just looks old. And besides, there are a ton of new features and capabilities we want it to have!"

Where to even start? We want big rotating homepage doohickeys, new colors, new fonts, maybe some sweet drop shadows to really make our new logo "pop"...

Huh? What about the content you say? Forget that for a minute; What's it gonna look like? What about all the cool new stuff it's going to do? How can I give you content if I don't know what it's gonna look like? Can't you just design it and we'll figure out the content later? We don't want to waste the project budget on content, we want all these new features!"


Stop. Right. There.

No amount of new design or features can overcome lousy content - It just can't. Nor is there a designer in the Universe talented enough to prove otherwise. A designer's job is to present information to the intended audience in a way that enhances it, makes it clearer, and more impactful. But they can't do that if they don't have the content. And, they can only do so much if all they are given is bad or lazy content. As the saying goes, "Garbage in, garbage out".

So what to do?

The content first.

I know, it's a bummer...and it sounds like the least fun part of the project. Just a few moments ago your mind was positively racing with all the possibilities of the new design, features and capabilities. And now, some killjoy designer is telling you to put the brakes on the fun design part and work on the boring old content? Shouldn't they be as excited as you to get to redo an awful old website?

Not if it means the project fails in the end.

Here's the reality of what happens when you don't put content first:

  • The designer doesn't know what to design, so instead of enhancing good (or even great) content, he/she does the old "lipstick on a pig" routine. Result? Your design is lackluster and generic.
  • The developer doesn't know what kind of content you're trying to manage, so he builds a CMS that doesn't do exactly what you need it to do. Result? Wasting budget and frustrating everyone on the project (and you still wind up with a CMS that doesn't do exactly what you need).
  • The SEO team has no content to optimize and the site doesn't perform well in the search engines. Result? Low search engine visibility and low traffic to the new site.
  • The content is half-baked and doesn't resonate with your target audience. Result? Your visitors never convert to customers.
  • The project is delayed for weeks or even months because there was no content in the pages to launch on time with. Result? The frustrated teams lose focus and enthusiasm for the project and your boss is pretty unhappy.

See a trend here? You can't expect to succeed without content first...And no good designer wants their name attached to a failed project.

It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of a site refresh or redesign; but resist the temptation to believe a new design or piece of functionality will cure what ailed your previous website. Take a deep breath, call in your content strategist, and hire a good copywriter to be part of the project team.

Oh, and after the project launches, don't short-change the SEO either (because that's another thing a new design can't fix). But that's another blog post for another day...

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons