Redesigning your website isn't just about design. Aligning your brand and design with a content strategy will help you make it more effective. Learn how.

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7 Reasons Why You Need a Content Strategy Before Redesigning Your Website

Wed Mar 19, 2014

Redesigning your website is a big project regardless of the size of your organization, but because it’s likely to be complex and time consuming, you want to make sure you do it right the first time. The temptation to keep the to-do list as short as possible is strong, but some items should be non-negotiable must-haves. Getting your content strategy in order should be at the top of your website redesign project list.

1. Design disconnected from content creates brand dissonance (and looks stupid)

We’ve all seen what happens when placeholder text doesn’t get replaced. Even though there are plenty of great filler text generators to help you fill the void on a new web design (here’s my favorite), their purpose is only to illustrate how a design looks when populated with content. They cannot serve as a foundation for a design that needs to feature real and specific content that should be highlighted by said design. Your design should communicate visually what you say about your brand in words.

2. Content is more than just copy

Your content is the copy on your home page, your landing pages, your news section, and your blog. It’s also your images, the homepage slideshow, your SlideShare presentations, videos, and downloadable ebooks. If you’d like to produce more video content, or find a better way to share your event photos, that becomes part of your content plan, and informs your design decisions.

3. Content-neutral design is cookie-cutter design

Good design can inspire copycats, and we often look to our peers to decide how our websites should look, but inspiration is only a starting point. Understanding your brand identity and what you’re trying to say should guide the final design, and developing your messaging is crucial to having a design that doesn’t look like it came from the website corner store.

4. Migrate bad content into a new design if you want to redesign twice

“We’ll worry about content after redesigning,” said no successful web project manager ever. Content migration doesn’t have to be a painful process, but if you’re building a new design to accommodate content that’s going to get replaced or doesn’t have a replacement lined up, you’re signing up for a wedding gown that won’t allow alterations, and could make for an awkward fit when all eyes are on you.

5. Content audits will show you what’s missing from your website

website redesign is a somewhat aspirational practice, with organizations wishing to present their brand at its very best. If you are reinventing yourself as the most customer-service-oriented credit union, you’ll need some content to back up those stock photos of smiling people wearing headsets.

6. You'll save time and money on your redesign project

Any good web design firm will do its homework before pushing a single pixel into place. In fact, if their designers want to dive in without asking any questions about your goals, analytics, target audience, or content, run. By reviewing your content and defining your desired outcomes and strategies, you’ll be able to provide a lot of the information the agency would be seeking during its discovery phase. You still want to let them do their research, but supplying more information and good content ahead of time will yield a smoother, faster process, and a better end result.

7. You’ll have a future-friendly website

Your website isn’t finished on the day you launch. As you see future opportunities for growth, you can prepare a strategic roadmap that can lead your organization towards its goals. Your website is a way to deliver business-critical content, engage customers, and drive revenue. Having a content plan will help you ensure you know how to measure whether you’re hitting your targets and when to adapt your approach.

One time while visiting a graphic design classroom I was admiring a wall of student artwork, with one section dedicated to a book cover design project. Among the featured works, a dead bird lying on its back struck a stark contrast against a pale gray background; it was To Kill a Mockingbird. (Spoiler alert: no mockingbirds are killed anywhere in the book.) The student designer clearly hadn’t read it. The design had no relationship to the content.

Take the time to understand the story your content should be telling so a great design can follow.

Karo Kilfeather, content marketing manager at Percussion Software
Karo Kilfeather
Content Marketing Manager | Percussion Software

Karo was born in Poland, and learned to speak English by watching "Saved by the Bell" reruns during her first summer in the U.S., which has left her unable to go through life without occasionally breaking the fourth wall. As Percussion's content marketing manager, she oversees and creates content that drives website traffic, engages followers, and helps fill the marketing and sales funnel. She writes about content management, content marketing, SEO, social media and web design, and how to make it all less complicated.

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