Endeavor Creative Blog

Web Strategy, Conversion Optimization, & Digital Entrepreneurship

Taking a Copy First Approach to Designing Your Website


“Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design; it’s decoration.”

Jeffery Zeldman

Most business owners who need a new or improved website start the process somewhere in the middle: rather than getting clear about their business goals and their customer, or thinking about the messages that will inspire their site visitors to act, they start by looking at websites they like to get ideas, shop for WordPress themes, or hire a designer to build them a nice looking layout and load it up with empty boxes filled with lorem ipsum.

“I’ll figure out the content later.”

Guys. This is a huge mistake.

Once you have a business strategy in place (you know your goals, your audience, your brand story, your positioning), the first step in creating a website that will benefit your business in a big way is to start by developing the content.

Now I know that sounds like homework. But this shift in approach will not only help turn more visitors into customers, it will help your designer create a better website for you. Or if you’re going the DIY route, it will help you choose a better template as a starting point.

Forget finding a pretty template and filling up the boxes with text just to make it all fit. A template is not designed knowing your story, your goals, your customer — it’s only a starting point. When you have a content outline and draft copy, you’ll know what you need and what to look for.

If you’re planning a new website, hold off on worrying about color schemes, fonts, and mood boards too — instead, start with a blank page.

Write your content outline first. What are the main pages you’ll need? What content elements need to go on every page?

Then start writing.

Even if you’re working with a copywriter or copyeditor, creating an outline and thinking things through as far as you can will help you get more out of your time working with them.

Why start with copy first? Because that’s your persuasive argument for why people should trust you, hire you, buy from you. Treating your copy like an afterthought means it just won’t convert as effectively.

And when working with a designer, if you come prepared with copy in your hands, they won’t waste their time making guesses and choices for you. They’ll be much better able to use visual design and layout to enhance your message and create a more effective hierarchy — one that will better guide your site visitors to action.