Copy or Design - Which Comes First?
It is a classic situation that every marketer has experienced. The chicken-or egg, or in this instance, copy-or-design?
You can ask 100 marketers this questions and end up with a divided room. Ask for feedback, and you will hear one of two stories:
1 - Stories of designers moving forward with designing a page that looks visually pleasing, flavoured with their favourite style of Lorm Ipsum (here is my go-to) and expecting writers to fill in the gaps.
2 - Stories of writers moving forward with copy that tells a beautiful story and reads well, but may not have a compelling structure because it was not written alongside the design.
Both outcomes are less than ideal. So the question becomes, which should come first - copy or design?
To me, the obvious answer is neither. It should be content.
Hear me out.
On the surface, copy and content seem identical, but when you dive into it, they differ.
Copy reflects the exact words that end up on a page, typically trying to sell readers on a point of view. Content is a more detailed approach to reason through data. Content should be thought provoking and lead users to convert towards your conversion goal.
For designers, a content outline is a starting point to organize information to shape the user experience of a page. Arranging this information into a wireframe dictates the hierarchy of the page and provides users with the information they need, in an order that makes sense.
For writers, a content outline acts as a brief. It provides structure around the purpose of the page and makes it clear what's needs to be communicated and when. This creates an opportunity for writers to experiment with wording and once a wireframe is in place, shape the story to fit the wireframe. This also becomes a time for writers to push back on design decisions if they feel certain points need greater emphasis.
Creating the content outline.
So, who in an organization is responsible for the content outline?
You might be lucky enough to work on a team with SEO’s or Product Marketers who are constantly researching competitors, trends, and figuring out what should be talked about on a page. That research would then become a content outline.
Perhaps there is no one else on your team who's job it is to create these outlines. In which case, this is a great opportunity for you to do it yourself.
By taking on the role of creating on content outlines, it gives you an understanding of the target audience, product, user behaviour and competitive landscape. Despite it being extra work, this added knowledge is invaluable in influencing the decisions you make and advocating for what you think is best.
Regardless if someone else at your company handled content outlines or not, I strongly encourage you to get involved and collaborate where you can as it will help drive your projects to a new level of greatness.