Copy First, Design Second: Why Words Shape the Web

22 February 2024

I often have conversations with business leaders who are looking for a new website design. This isn't out of the ordinary, we are a web design agency, but it's the fact we talk about design straight away that is, I believe, the wrong way round.

When updating older websites, one of the main reasons given is that the old site is looking a bit dated. Even when starting a brand-new site for a new organisation, there is talk of it looking fresh and exciting. And I get it, you do want a great-looking site. But we think great-looking sites should be the default. That is a standard requirement, and there is no excuse for a site not looking great.

But before we even start looking at colours, fonts, and button design, we need to look at an often overlooked element – the website copy.

The most important part of a website is the message it conveys. Visual design should complement and enhance this, but you have to get the message right first.

Our process prioritises understanding and refining your message before we shape the visual elements.

Using Old Copy

It is important to understand that a website isn’t a place to just dump information. It should guide your visitors from the moment they arrive to the moment they decide you are the right choice for them.

Don’t just list what you do; show them why what you do matters to them.

If you haven’t been through this process before, just using old copy won’t work.

Ensuring the copy is focused on the visitor, is benefit-driven, and then broken up with clear headings so that it is easy to read is essential.

Copy First

When we start designing a website, we need to know what we are designing. Otherwise, it is like trying to cook a meal without knowing the ingredients. You may end up with something edible, but it’s probably going to be a bit underwhelming.

When you have a strong message, we can design a site that puts this front and centre.

We Don’t Use Templates

This is one of the reasons we don’t use set templates. I often see these beautiful-looking templates on webbuilder sites, and they do look great. But that isn’t what makes a site convert. Once you have added your copy and images, the template suddenly looks completely different and is nowhere near as nice as it looked at the start! It is a bit like someone assigning you a great fitness regime which, on paper, looks great. But doesn’t take into account any of your unique circumstances, such as if you have kids, a dog to walk, or don’t like running. A personalised plan is going to deliver much better results.

Our approach is about maximising the impact your website has. And it is why our discovery process takes up a few weeks. We have to work out what we need to present, to whom, and then how we are going to present it before we even begin to write a line of code.

So, if you want a website that doesn’t just look pretty but represents your organisation, then just get in touch.

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