Does Content Always Come First?: (Part 1)

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“Content should precede design” – is this true?

Think about some of the best websites you know.

Do they have flawless layouts, sleek navigation systems or beautiful aesthetics?

Or, is it more to do with the actual content of which you seek from the websites, which makes them truly great?

Whenever I create designs or specific content for anything, I get the usual questioning – “Why did you use that colour?”, “Why that typeface?”, “What were you trying to communicate here?” The main reasoning behind all these things for me personally, is that I design, to reflect the content which will be displayed alongside it.

“Content-First Design”, is a method of using content as a basis of design, rather than purely focusing on functionality and navigation.

There have been debates from passionate designers for years, on whether it is in fact content-first or design/navigation-first which is key to successful web design.

Designer Jeffrey Zeldman stated in May 2008, that “Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.”(source: proving the point made, that all designs and navigations can, and will only be necessary when the content itself was the starting point of inspiration.

jeffrey zeldman. Jeffrey Zeldman's Tweet[/caption]

This message has really been an on-going inspiration for all my design projects, I mean… It’s easy to make something look pretty, but without a goal or ambition behind it, or a particular message the design aims to communicate, it means nothing.

Although many designers state that content should always be parallel to the overall design when creating anything with a purpose for a specific target audience, it’s typically not taken into account as much as it could be. I find that designs created without purpose, tend to be incredibly flawed and uninteresting – as if there’s no reasoning for it, it has no purpose.

It’s common within design, to be required to use “Lorem Ipsum” placeholder text within early dummy versions of sites or publications, as a means of viewing how things will be viewed as a finished article – without actually having to think about directly managing any real data.

Loren Ipsum. Loren Ipsum Placeholder Text[/caption]


I wouldn’t usually do this... I swear! But, for a quick laugh, check out some of these comical Loren Ipsum generators…,,

hipster ipsum

Anyway… back to what I was explaining! Temporary data like this could be seen as an incredibly negative move for some new designs created today. The phrase “Form Follows Function” really has significance here, for instance: why should anyone create a website which exploits one particular colour, typeface or theme – if it has absolutely nothing to do with what is being communicated via its content. Loren Ipsum placeholder text adds nothing but temporary aesthetics to a design concept; no genuine message or meaning.

In an ideal world, all designers should aim­­­­ to have some inkling into the content, before even beginning to brainstorm ideas on designs, layouts and navigation. At least, that’s what I think. Saying this, even I, myself, have to work with these means of temporary data for clients – as it is what is required and expected.

In the next post in this series, I will further explain about placeholder text and temporary data, and further my thoughts about content-first design...

Until next time!

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