Join James Williamson for an in-depth discussion in this video The importance of content, part of Introduction to Web Design and Development.
- One of the biggest recent shifts in web design has been the increased focus on content. In the past, it was common for designers to create site mockups that simply indicated content through the use of placeholders. Most of the design and approval process would move forward this way. Often with the finished content only being added at the very end of the development phase. That type of workflow no longer works for modern web development. Today, sites are consumed across a multitude of devices and context.
So trying to tie content into a single design constraint, isn't practical or effective. One of the best metaphors that I've heard, is that your content needs to be able to flow like water, so that it adapts perfectly to whatever device it's viewed on. Now this becomes an even bigger design challenge when you realize that screen size and capabilities are going to vary wildly from device to device. This greatly impacts not only how much content you can display, but also how users are going to be able to interact with that content.
This has led to a renewed focus on content to the point that a content strategist is now a well-defined specialization. As the name implies, a content strategist is responsible for developing the content strategy for sites and organizations. A content strategy is a set of guiding principles and workflows that controls the creation and presentation of content. A content strategy might guide things like a content audit, to identify and quantify the types of content a site might contain, determine within larger organizations who is responsible for specific content types, define workflows around the creation and maintenance of content, and considers how content should be presented and interacted with by the users.
A content strategy can even define a consistent voice for content creation. MailChimp uses the voiceandtone.com site as a way of instructing their employees how to write content that will have the same clear and consistent voice. A content strategy can do all of this and more. While I was listing all of those individual elements, I'm betting that some of you were saying to yourselves, "Hey, that sounds like the majority "of the site planning process." Well, you're right.
A clearly defined content strategy will take care of a large portion of the site planning process and really is the reason that content planning should be done very early on. If you're working on larger projects, you're likely to have a dedicated content strategist or a team in place. For smaller jobs, you'll likely have to do the process yourself or work with a smaller team. So it's really important that you learn about content and how it affects the web design process. Content is no longer the stuff we use to replace the dummy text in our designs.
Rather, it's perhaps the most integral part of the planning and execution of modern sites. As such, to be an effective web designer, you need to understand its importance and how it should drive your own design workflows.
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- What is web design?
- What is a web designer?
- Learning to code
- Choosing a web host
- Working with a CMS
- Exploring how websites are structured
- Choosing your framework or software
- Designing with standards and accessibility in mind