Better Writing Through Design

by Bronwyn Jones

22 Reader Comments

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  1. Great article, lest we forget: the web has always been a remains a text-based medium, primarily. A visual designer who knows his or her trade will pick up a pencil (or open Word) first, to establish what and who the project is about well before mousing around with design tools. Visual design is just as important but process matters most. A recipe of only ingredients without process is mush. So context > content > design > test > serve > chill.

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  2. I absolutely agree. Great article!

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  3. It’s good to see that writing isn’t totally lost. I’m quite proud to be part of the technological generation that still knows how to spell but the projects I’m involved in are largely CMS related. I don’t get any say in the content of the sites we produce (the worst of all – template driven, off-the-shelf jobby’s). I guess it’s not really my problem but it’s gutting when I’m ashamed of the websites I’m responsible for.

    So that said, I’d love to see some effort put into reaching the people who are actually writing ‘content’. Be it designers, end users/clients or SEO specialists… In light of the increasing adoption of web standards the actual content that is being made accessible needs the same consideration. Are there any existing repositories of knowledge that are publicly available as a reference for educating content authors? I can definitely see a business case for it if not… (b4 orl hp iz lst)

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  4. I’m a terrible writer. Not because I don’t know the English language. I just don’t think enough about it. As designers we often rush to complete a project, beat our clients down for the content we do receive, stick it in, and then leave it at that.

    I will keep this article bookmarked as a great reminder that I need to stop and think about content before I go chunking content into a design.

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  5. It’s a good thing, professional web people start to put more emphasis on content. Up to a while ago everything was about web design, html/css and programming.

    For web designers and web developers content is by far the most difficult task to handle. And it is even harder for most clients. They don’t know much about how web communication works, don’t want to spend on a professional writer and wreck the project by writing content themselves.

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  6. The simple questions that you outline (what do your site visitors want to know / do; what do you want them to know / do / feel) are ones that should drive not only the content but the architecture and functionality of sites.

    This is an interesting related article from Jakob Nielsen:
    http://www.useit.com/alertbox/features.html

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  7. “So how is it that the very foundation of the web, written text, has taken a strategic back seat to design?”

    This sentence kind of sums up my 6+ years doing interactive copy in an agency environment. Things are slowly changing, and copy/content is being brought in earlier and earlier in the process, but ultimately, design is still leading the charge. It’s funny since the “content is king” mantra has become almost cliched at this point, yet Creative Directors with design backgrounds are 8:1 over those with copy backgrounds at my agency alone (and I think we’re actually ahead of a lot of others in that respect).

    I’ve also found we get more client involvement online. When you hire an ad agency to develop a campaign, generally a few high-ups will jump in and play copywriter, if that. With interactive, there’s a lot more to deal with in terms of volume. In addition to brand and campaign creative considerations, we’ve also got product information of varying levels, and everyone with Word installed seems to think they can contribute. The bigger the company you work with, the worse it gets. (Okay, maybe I’m just venting client frustrations at this point).

    Anyway, great piece. 100% agree. Consideration of voice and story is as important as anything else when developing a site and that does need to stop taking a backseat to visual design elements.

    All hail the copywriter!

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  8. I can’t tell you how many times as a web project manager I’ve heard, “well, I don’t know exactly what content I’m putting up, but I want my website to look like this… .”  The content is vitally important.  After all, that’s why the users are there.  And no, you can’t take your printed marketing brochure from last year and “slap it up on the web.”  Writing for the web has a particular style to serve particular needs.

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  9. you make some great points. I have seen too many websites where they style of text and the style of the site just don’t mesh. This can be exacerbated by the individual “voice” of a writer.

    Unfortunately too many people just don’t have the skill to effectively communicate in a genuine and cohesive manner. But for those that can it provides a real opportunity.

    This looks like a great blog. this is the first time I have ever visited it today and I am impressed.

    Tim McCormack
    http://www.iRent2u.com – The Online Rental Marketplace

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  10. I’ve always understood that good content is the basis for any great website design. I dwelt on that a great deal while creating a new website for myself. I wanted to hire a copy-writer who was more experienced than I – someone to keep my thoughts on track and keep me from making grammatical blunders. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the funds to support such, and was left to fend for myself. The most common advice I received from fellow web designers was to “write like you talk”. After writing a few sentences, I would read them allowed to see if they felt unnatural.  They did.  I finally came up with a design that focused more on the text than on graphics, and started a blog so I could practice writing on a regular basis.

    I wish this article was around then – Its entirely helpful and I look forward to going back through my site and taking a concentrated look at my content. Cheers!

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  11. we say in german. plain and good.

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  12. The Better Design you users will read more, but there are some websites which are “overdesigned”.

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