Crafting UI Design to be Content Agnostic - Web Design Ledger

A website's primary goal is to deliver the content that you're looking for – or content you'll be interested in. Many sites out there miss the mark though and leave out a crucial step in their design process – Content Strategy.

Content Strategy is about crafting our website's content to best match the goals and desires of the audience, among other things. The more relevant the content to the user's intentions, the more interested the users will be. That said, it's also important to stay content agnostic as well – Meaning, we shouldn't design our site's UI to only work with the content in it's current iteration.

Content often outlives our UI design iterations. Trends come and go, tastes change, and different styles become commonplace. So while it's easier just to reshape content with each revision, the benefits of keeping content consistent far outweigh the costs of revising with each redesign.

Clarity vs Creativity

Our goal as designers is to make the UX as simple and easy as possible. in doing that, content is our greatest ally. Crafting the messaging and flow of the user's experience when reading content can point them where we need them to go and deliver key points in the process.

Redesigning a website is a constant balancing act of updating the content to be accurate, but not changing so much that you're altering the overall message just to make things fit into the new aesthetic.

content-first strategy

Start with Content First

Using a content-first approach in UI Design is nothing new or revolutionary. Starting by assessing and laying out content before even considering UI design can help keep the focus where it's important – on the content itself.

Personally, I flesh out wireframes to lay down the general site outline in low-fidelity, then move to sorting out content. Doing this process, it's easy to bounce back and forth as content and the site layout changes. While it's alright to modify a layout to accommodate the content, it's not as acceptable to snip and cut content to fit the layout. In doing that, we would be losing valuable information for the sake of UI decoration. There are a few exceptions to this, but they're few and far between – and most often fringe use cases at best.

No existing content?

This is the *best* position to start in. If an old site's content is simply too far gone to be useful to the audience, or if we're starting fresh, a blank slate opens a lot of possibility. Crafting an overarching message is important – Are you trying to sell a product? Or maybe push information to the user? In any case, being able to smoothly guide the user through your pitch or knowledge can make or break a website… Good UI or not.

Many designers (myself included) are tempted to just run with filler text like lorem ipsum. But doing that, finalizing the UI Design, and only finding out after that it complicates the Content Strategy portion of the process can be a giant pain in the butt. It's best to do content strategy while the rest of the project is flexible, as that allows for the most freedom.

Remaining Content Agnostic

Part of the content-first design movement is remaining content agnostic. It's a very helpful point that many designers ignore since it complicates the overall process. Ideally, when we're upgrading a WordPress theme or launching a custom site overhaul – The content itself should stay the same or at least only be tweaked with updated information. Why? Well, our audience hasn't changed. Completely changing the content could alienate the existing audience.

Communicating to our users is a huge part of our job as designers. With a content-first approach and keeping our audience in mind, we can make redesigns and new site launches much more user friendly. Take a stab at it in your next project, and give us a preview of your process in the comments below!



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