Content before design

As a rule, we do not begin any work - design, coding, or even jotting down ideas and sketching - until we have received complete specifications and content required to create a website or print artwork. Design is not just about making things look good, it's also about making content work to achieve desired results. Design without content is pretty much meaningless. It may seem at first glance that creating content and design simultaneously will sve time, but in reality, we've seen in prolong or even kill projects due to budget limitations or simple frustration.

This does not mean that we require an absolutely perfect, finished version for your website copy or to know exactly which phone number goes on the business card. You need to change the phone number? No problem. There's a typo in that paragraph on the About page of your website? We'll fix it. A small change here and there is not only fine, but is likely to happen and will be sorted out before the finished version is published. Issues arise when the client is too busy with other, more pressing matters and the project gets stuck and neglected; or when changes are more significant, or if there are too many of them.

Firstly, please bear in mind that if your additional requests require significantly more work than originally agreed upon, we will need additional time and/or payment to take care of it (we'll clear it with you first of course; nothing gets done that you need to pay for without your approval).

A problem that can on occasion prove more difficult to solve is adapting the original design to changed content, or content that wasn't finalised before the design phase had started. We've tried designing using Lorem Ipsum text, and it had gotten us terrible results; the process was more frustrating for all involved, and the end result was nowhere nearly as good as it would have been if we'd stuck to our rule.

Why wasn't it? It's just an extra paragraph of text, after all. It's just one more phone number on the business card, or a different image on a web page, or it's just an extra page on the website - so why should it be so difficult to squeeze in there or take out perhaps? In truth, it may not be difficult at all - but it can and usually will affect the whole design. The extra phone number on the business card will make it feel crowded, resulting in a need for a redesign. The extra page on the website suddenly forces you to either rethink that horizontal navigation bar, or to take out something to make room for the new item. A different image might be better than the old one - but then again it might change the focus of the design, or it might, say, be too light to serve as a background under an area with text. That extra paragraph of text? Inserting it will push other content lower down the page, while you may have wanted to keep, say, that call to action above the fold (wherever that might be).

In these situations, changes and compromises can be done, but the result may not be as good as it could have been if we'd thought things through from the start. Aesthetic visual design should always be the last part of the creative process, after creation of content, after the data architecture for the templates has been determined, after you've decided what your tagline is. Dummy designs reduce problem-solving to decoration, don't contribute to business objectives, impose unneeded restrictions on content writers, and put off users. We hate doing it. We try to create meaningful designs and interfaces that make sense to users. Help us do it right. Let's think about content and specifications on time, let's have the structure and priorities shape strong, authentic design.