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Give me content or give me death

November 13, 2011

As amusing as I find content generators like Hipster Ipsum, I don't believe they really help a designer in his or her travels. Fake content is a quick, lazy fix to a complex need. A web designer needs to put content first - above aesthetics, above search engine solutions, above deadlines. Without real content, it isn't really web design.

What's this all about?

At some point within the last 2 years, I was exposed to this idea that it is difficult to design without having real content on hand. In fact, I believe it was presented more strongly: one cannot design well without real content.

In other words, if you are designing a storefront for shoes, you need some images, descriptions, and marketing techniques that will be used to sell those shoes once the design is live.

Take some time to think

I have pondered this idea at some length. I've had this conversation with a number of people. The overall consensus is that while the position has merits, it's often unrealistic. I've also, during this time, been involved in several design processes - to various degrees of success.

Here's what I've come up with.

Reality check

I agree that it is often not realistic to obtain enough content to really be able to design on a tight deadline using that content. I also agree that putting real content into proofs can be distracting when presenting said proofs to stakeholders.

However, I also believe that having content first (and putting content first) is the right approach to design. In response to the latter problem, a design should be presented and it should be the presenter's responsibility to coax the stakeholders away from getting enveloped in a tangential discussion about the merits of the content during that presentation. As for the former, I believe it is the designers responsibility to obtain the content by whatever means necessary and to not begin deigning until he or she has it.

Content is king

As I said, I've been involved in several design processes during these ponderings - to varying degrees of success. This all comes from a place of realizing that most frustrating redesigns (because not all redesigns are frustrating) could have been prevented by having some content on hand from the beginning. What's more, accidentally awesome designs seem to have had real content available from the beginning.

So, give me content or give me death. And I simply won't start until I have it. Otherwise, the initial designs are likely to need to be killed anyway.

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