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Benefits Of A Copy-First Approach In Designing

Copy-First Approach

It has been a little over six years now that I have been writing for websites, and every now and then I find myself participating in the never-ending debate between Designers, Product Managers, and Writers – Copy-first approach or Design first approach? Many writers feel that the designers should get the ball rolling and based on the design, the words should be tailored. However, I stand on the opposite side of this belief. For me, a copy-first approach to any kind of design project is the best way to go about it. 

Read More: Content Or Design First

The very first step of a design project, of any nature, or size, is to construct and shape the thought behind it. Thoughts are also content; words in our mind form the base of the very-first content, which needs to be articulated through the copy. Jeffrey Zeldman, the famous entrepreneur, and web design expert, once said “Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design; it’s decoration.” This may sound a bit harsh, especially to my designer friends. However, one thing is clear to me, be it a stand-alone page, a new website, or a website re-design, the copy-first approach can make your project more efficient. Let’s discuss some key benefits of a copy-first approach to website designing.

Better Timeline Setting and Deadline Planning

The initial content doesn’t need to be written by the Content Writer or the Content Strategist. It can come straight from the client or any other team member, which can be further validated and polished by the Content Writer. If the copy and a content plan are ready, right at the beginning of the project, it allows you to think on realistic timelines. You can set accurate deadlines based on it.

There are a lot of tools available which can be used to manage tasks and their progress. High-level tasks must be clearly outlined in order of operations to move the project smoothly, and not jumping from idea to idea. No matter which software you use, the entire team should be able to see the task list, to be on the same page.

A rough draft at the beginning is good to kick-off the project. The final and complete copy takes some time, depending upon the size of the project. Moreover, it isn’t required to create all the content assets in one go. A simple indication of where you want to use a photo, or mentioning when the photo shoot may take place in the project timeline is enough to start with.

Proper Site Planning

This majorly benefits larger projects, like new websites or full-blown corporate website redesigns. Preparing the copy and content plan upfront helps the team to plan the project and lets you focus on the overall strategy. It allows you to estimate the scope of the project; it lets you understand how extensive the website and its different pages are. 

On the other hand, in case of a small project, like a single page, looking at the copy and the content plan shows how extensive the page could be. Here, you can check the user flow and analyze how well it fits into the scheme of the existing website.

With copy written upfront, we know exactly what the header, footer, and other sections will look like. We know what kind of images we need to source or create, where the CTAs will be placed, and what they were going to say. In short, we have an excellent plan for the page right from the start.

Having a site map early in the project is very fruitful; irrespective of the way it is documented, the important thing is that everyone involved must have access to it. A sitemap is the best way to keep content organized, linked, and accessible. It presents a better picture to you of what’s missing, what needs immediate attention, and what’s ready to move on to the next stage.

Offering Concise Content

Deciding what amount of copy is a good amount of copy is a very tricky and challenging task. Besides, there are specific sections on a webpage or website which needs to have more copy as compared to other sections and vice versa. Steve Krug, the author of the famous UX book ‘Don’t make me think’ once said: “Get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what’s left”. That’s a powerful statement; however, studies have suggested that too much text on web pages isn’t suitable for any of the following – user experience, usability, readability or site metrics.

That said, we still come across websites that are stuffed with the copy. Trimming the copy by more than 50 percent is a strategic move and results in some serious decluttering. Decluttering improves user flow, site map, sales funnel, and navigation. If the path to purchase is improved and becomes more accessible, removing a whole page or a whole section is worth it.

Constant Comparison Against Set Goals

As the project is moving along, you should also be always able to check the content against your set goals; both user goals and business goals. On a large scale, you’d be checking content alignment with the intended user and business goals; and if each page aligns to the goals? Similarly, on a smaller level, check if individual sections and sentences also align.

If you find deviations in the planned copy and content, from those goals, it’s best that you re-write them. Even if the content deviation is minor, this allows you to start optimizing it. Re-wording the copy and adjusting content assets to be more direct is a great way to strategize. It leads to higher conversion rates and lower bounce rates.

Clearly Defined Visual Design

A copy-first approach helps to define and set up the visual design. It helps with a variety of design aspects, especially layout. The copy-first approach is a highly collaborative process. The designers, copywriters and marketers, all need to work together while deciding the content. Even developers actively participate in the process. The plus point is that these conversations start at the early stage of the project. This leads to better collaboration and results. The copy-first approach lets the visual designing process kick off from the very first step.

Because of the collaborative and planning nature, the copy-first approach helps to eliminate revisions and strengthens the UX. By the time the visual and UI design stages come, all the pages and sections are already agreed upon, by everybody involved in the project. It’s a great way to lead design projects most effectively. Talk to our design experts to discuss more on the same.

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