The debate over whether content or design is more important may never be resolved.

The one thing everyone should agree on is that content shapes design. This is why it’s important for designers to have content as early as possible.

Explaining the importance of content to the design itself often helps clients understand why they need their content finished before the site is complete.

Layout Supports Content

No one really visits a website just to see the design. Most visitors are interested in the content. The design’s layout, color scheme and navigation are all meant to support the content. For instance, an online publication might need a layout with gradually smaller content areas to highlight the most recent or important content.

Simply putting in placeholder content isn’t enough. Designers need to know exactly how much space to put in each area to account for average headlines, teasers and images. They also need to be able to judge whitespace and navigation around the content itself.

Content Is The Heart

In most cases, you wouldn’t build a home without first knowing what’s going inside. For instance, building a two bedroom / one bathroom home for a family with six kids isn’t going to work. It’s the same with a website. The content is the heart of the site. Until you know what the content is, you’re not sure what the purpose and design of the site should be.

One good rule to follow is to gather together all content, including text, videos, images, widgets and more. Place them on a page and build the design around it. This helps highlight the content and blends together the content and design seamlessly.

Create Original Designs

Without content, you’re left to design based on what your client has told you. This only gives you a very general view of what they want. If they say they want a professional looking business site with bold colors, you instinctively go with the same basic business layout as most other business sites. The content helps provide your client’s personality so you can design the site uniquely to them and the type of content they use.

Make Content Easier To Process

One of the main purposes of your design is to make content easier to process for visitors. For instance, having a design with little whitespace might work with a site that’s mostly videos or images. If the site was more text based, more whitespace along with borders would make it easier to scan content at a glance.

The harder it is for visitors to quickly see what’s on the page, the more likely they are to leave. A design with content placed at the last minute is often difficult to use. No matter how great the design or content is, they both look bad to visitors.

Avoid Last Minute Flaws

Dummy text might work well in during the design phase. When actual content is added, the design seems full of flaws. The problem is designers need to test the actual content in the design before it’s time to launch the website. For instance, if videos need to pop out when clicked, the designer needs to test with the same videos the client will be using.

Real content doesn’t always look the same in the design as dummy content. The font might not work as well or the color scheme might clash horribly with any images and infographics used. Starting off with content helps the designer avoid these time consuming flaws and get the site finished faster.


Your clients don’t need to have the entire site’s content written from day one, but they need to provide real samples of the types of content they’ll be using. The content shapes the design and it’s evident on any site that had to use filler content during the design process. Avoid the hassle and create better designs by making certain clients provide content upfront.

Need to work with different layouts quickly and easily? Test content more effectively by using the Conductor plugin to quickly change your layouts.

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