Designing from scratch often throws up issues for the lowly designers tasked with getting a page or a site together for a company or brand. I’ve often heard colleagues who have fired up Photoshop asking what the content is like on a page only to be told: “Don’t worry about that just yet, we’ll deal with it when we get closer to the live date.”
That’s when a Lorum ipsum generator is fired up and gobbledygook is regurgitated onto a page in order to make it look like it will when it goes live.
If, as a designer, this happens to you it’s a fairly safe bet that one, or all, of the following will transpire:
- There’ll be a long wait within the project while copy is put together
- You’ll have to redesign what you’ve done when the real content comes in (because it won’t physically fit the space you’ve allocated)
- You’ll be asked to write the copy
- Testing will fail, or you’ll get some confusing results – and you’ll have to go all the way back to the drawing board
What’s fairly certain is that you’re going to have to put in some extra hours to get something that works.
What can you do to avoid this?
Hold it, wait for the content
It sounds very glib of us to suggest that you make a stand for content by not starting work before you have the copy/video/audio/images, but it will make your life easier later on.
Why? Well, by putting your content through the rigour of a content strategy, you’ll have a lot more to work with.
You’ll have a content hierarchy in place, you’ll know the length or subject of headings, paragraphs and what format they’ll take. And, this sounds crazy but we’ve seen it happen, you’ll know what the page structure will be (“This is where we sell shoes…what shoes? Is this merchandising, a shoe feature, or a look book? What is it about the shoes that makes them so great? Help me!”).
Even the very best designers can’t produce work of any quality without these fundamental answers in place.
How do you avoid this?
The painstaking process of defining a full content strategy with audits of what works and what doesn’t, thorough examination of the audience and the many faceted beast that is tone of voice is complex – it’s something we specialise in after all. As a designer up against a deadline you may not realise that you’re doing content strategy Lite™ to get under the skin of the brief by asking:
- What is this page/site about and where is it going to appear? (to get context)
- Who is it for? (to glean audience type)
- What does this page/site need them to do? (here are your calls to action)
- Why should they do that? (this gives you motivation and a nod towards hierarchy)
The answers to these should give you a good starting point with which to get your design doing what it needs to without running the risk of a publishing fail.
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