Select Page

Taking a Copy First Approach to Designing Your Website

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I'll receive a commission. Disclosure.

“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 web design process somewhere in the middle: rather than getting clear about their business goals and their customer, or thinking about the copy that’ll inspire their site visitors to read on and act, they start by:

  • Looking at websites they like so they know what they want to copy;
  • Shopping for WordPress themes or Squarespace templates;
  • Hiring  a designer to create a beautiful layout without any content to work with…

“I’ll figure the content out later.”

And then the website, pretty and filled with lorem ipsum text, takes forever to launch.

Creating a website that will benefit your business in a big way means developing the content first

This approach will not only help you 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 the right approach (template, platform, etc.), because you’ll have a better idea of what content you need to accommodate.

A template — no matter how pretty — is not designed knowing your story, your goals, your customer. 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.

I know that colors and fonts and mood boards are the fun part, but I promise you, it’ll be even more fun once you get the content sorted out.

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 editor, 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.