seen + learned

Challenging the convention of starting with content

Posted: Tuesday, November 10, 2009 | Posted by Tania Schlatter | Labels: , , ,

When we were recently designing a new site for ourselves, the effort started with content. We thought that once we had an idea about the content, we'd to do the design. We developed a rough draft of the things we wanted to say, worked with a great writer and came up with a final draft.

Visual designs were based on the content. After a few rounds, we liked the design. The problem was, we were no longer satisfied with the words. What was it about reading the words in the design that made us want to change them? Everything had looked good in Word. If we had been just the web design team and not also the client we would have probably been annoyed: "Don't they know what they want? It's about to launch!" We had fallen into a trap we had seen but not experienced, the inability to visualize something without seeing it complete.

We were reminded that it takes two to tango – content and design go hand in hand to communicate, and should be developed simultaneously (along with behaviors if designing an app) as much as possible to create a cohesive experience. We should have recognized it sooner and prescribed one of our own solutions – using schematic page diagrams (aka wireframes) from the beginning to define content and layout at a high level. Schematics show the types of content without showing actual writing, and the hierarchy of the layout without showing visual design. If we had done them, once the wireframes felt right we could have moved the writing and the visual design along simultaneously, which would have saved a lot of time.


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