Making Your Last Impression First

The typical process in creating a website goes something similar to the following:

  1. Determine what information is important and organize it (IA)
  2. Create one or more designs and choose the best
  3. Layout the website in HTML, CSS, etc.
  4. Program any interactive parts to the site
  5. Fill the page templates with content
  6. Rinse and repeat

Notice any thing wrong with this approach? That’s right. The most important information is left until the end.

It is traditional for designers to use fill like Lorem Ipsum or dummy data to show how a design will look when viewed. The problem with this approach is that it’s not realistic. You’re forced to cut down on copy or stretch it to fit, all to satisfy the needs of a designer.

The best approach that we have found is somewhat of a hybrid method allowing for change. While you are going through the IA stage, start working on the content for those pages. You’ll be amazed at how the importance and order of information changes once you start working through what you have to say. The designer can insert that content into designs and let you view it early in the process. It will also influence the designer’s emotional side in how they design your site.

We used this approach on our recent redesign and it absolutely worked out the best for us. We started with core ideas and put them into Writeboard to mull over several times. As we began plugging the content into the designs (all 8 of them), we could see very quickly what was working and what wasn’t.

The site and content changed during the process in a way that was somewhat unexpected. It really started to reflect who we are and I’m rather proud of it. It wasn’t marketing BS thrown on a site for search engine ratings. I learned more about Josh’s motivations during the process than in the three years of working together and more than ten years of friendship. It really was fascinating.

So where am I going with all of this? The world has a lot to say, but getting it out is the toughest part. There’s a great 10 part series on copywriting over on entitled Copywriting 101. It’s a simple read that will get you going in the right direction.