Website Design or its Copy: Which Should Come First?

Previously published on Hackernoon

This a chicken and egg dilemma that goes way back!

If you’re a website designer, a copywriter or a new startup founder, then you would’ve probably come across this conundrum.

We all know how important it is to have a stunning website design to please the users. And we do know how much the interactive, appealing content can pull in the attention.

But what goes behind the process of creating a website that’s great in both design and copy?

Should the design come first? Or the copy?

Are you confused or annoyed with all the back-and-forths?

Well, such instances are more common than you think.

In many website development projects, the web copy is at the bottom of the silo, often after website development and design. And it may often seem like the natural thing to do.

The designers take care of how the website looks and the writer then comes up with the copy that fits in the design. Sounds simple, isn’t it?

But it isn’t.

What Happens When Web Design Comes First?

While the web designer specializes in creating user-friendly designs, the copywriter is an expert in creating content that is attractive to the audience.

So, when the web designer has already finalized the web design, the copywriter has no way but to make the design work.

What could be the drawbacks if that happens?

  1. The content length may be too long than required and the copywriter may be forced to fill it with fluff.
  2. The content length may be so short that the copywriter wouldn’t have the space to describe the product in detail.
  3. In a detailed design with specific word length for each section, the copywriter would be restricted to explore more.
  4. When the copywriter exceeds the word count of individual blocks, it can disrupt the alignment of the complete design.

What Happens When the Web Copy Comes First?

As you look at the drawbacks of the design-first, copy-later project approach, are you thinking of switching these two steps?

No, you shouldn’t!

‘Why so’, you ask?

  1. When you write the web copy first, there can be discrepancies in the synchronizations of the design elements.

For example, in a section, there can be 4 sub-blocks. All of these should have the same length to make the design look pleasing. But with a copy-first approach, it can be big trouble.

  1. The web designer is responsible for user-friendliness. But when the copy restricts the designer’s creativity, it can impact the final design.

So, what’s the solution here?

Collaboration of Web Designer + Copywriter = The Winning Combo

When one thing comes before the other, there’s often a disjointed communication that translates to dissatisfying user experience.

The designer wouldn’t know how the content is going to come out and the writer wouldn’t know how the content will be placed. And it ends up affecting the website’s outcome.
In my personal experience, I’ve seen many great products take a hit because of the lack of communication between the web designer and the copywriter. The crux of the problem has always been the restriction of creative space for both.

Good design and copy go hand in hand for building impressive websites and so should the process be. Here are a few more reasons why the web designer and the copywriter should work together.

You Can Save So Much Wasted Time

I’ve often seen instances where a designer has a different opinion after seeing the copy or the copywriter wants a change in the design after the designer has completed the work.

Since both of them are emotionally invested in their works, such situations call for unnecessary tension, finger-pointing and conflicts, none of which bodes well for creating a fantastic website.

During such times, there’s so much redoing involved that both of them can get frustrated. On top of that, it can delay the launch of the product with more edits going around. And it’s a complete waste of time!

But when a copywriter and web designer work together, they can discuss and get things out in the open before both put in an enormous amount of effort and finalize their work. They can settle their differences quickly and move on amicably.

The Brainstorming Sessions Mean More Creative Ideas

The web designers and copywriters thrive on creativity and are actually paid for their creative minds.
When they put their creative minds together, they can come up with new ideas and different perspectives that would enrich the website even more.

As they begin to understand how the other person works, they can also customize their working process accordingly to deliver the best output.

The Website Will Have Better Readability

Consistent, aesthetic designs across the entire website is a challenge to build but is a necessary art to master.

Chris Bank of UXPin says, “Website is a form of visual art in its own right, and follows many of the same rules as more traditional artforms. It is the science of aesthetics, mixed with the principles of business, and an extraordinary website interface must feel effortless yet enticing.”

Most often, the web designers come up with a consistent design, but it can get disturbed by the web copy.

But when the designers and writers work together, they would focus on making the website look coherent across graphic designs, fonts, content positioning, etc.

Let’s say that a writer wants to highlight three main questions that the target audience has. The designer can create separate sections and graphics related to the content and highlight them on the website.

When we blur the lines between the process of web design and copywriting, we can build truly great products that are aesthetically pleasing and resonate with your audience.

No Compromises at the Expense of Audience

When there’s so much back and forth with a design-first or copy-first content, either one of them ends up compromising at the expense of the audience or the client — even when they feel that it would disrupt the user experience.

Instead of clashing and compromising, it becomes much better when they’re on the same side of the coin. As the writer and the designer spend time with each other, they may even grow to respect and value the other’s opinion, which will do wonders for the final product!

How Can a Business Owner Make This Partnership Work?

  • If you have an in-house team with a designer and copywriter, make them a part of the website development process.
  • If you’re hiring remote freelancers, you can hire a team with a developer, designer and a copywriter. If you’re planning to individually outsource, make sure that the freelancers are open to work together on design+copy.
  • Even if you’re hiring freelancers, conduct short, brainstorming sessions in which both can discuss their ideas and suggestions openly.
  • Encourage the writer first to provide a rough outline of the points they plan to cover and collaborate with the designer on creating a website interface that fits in with the plan. And then, they can begin collaborating as they progress further.
  • Create short iterations with mini-goals for each of them to finalize and move to the next iteration. This way, you can avoid reworks and shorten the project lifecycle.
  • For small projects, you can hire someone who handles both the design and the copy.

Final Thoughts

Creating a good website requires a smooth project development with a special emphasis on the end-users.

The copywriters and the designers are masters of their crafts. And when there’s proper interaction between them, they can amplify each other’s abilities and do much better for the bottom line.

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