If Content is King and Design is Queen, How Do You Divide the Throne?

A friend whose home you’ve never visited invites you over for a drink. When you pull up to the curb, you are instantly impressed by the house’s appearance. It’s not a large dwelling by today’s standards, but its carefully maintained law, well manicured trees, and homey porch complete with fall-colored potted mums and casual seating give it great appeal.

Your friend greets you at the door and invites you in. As you step into the entry and living room area you notice that the inside of the house is just as beautiful as the outside. The décor is tidy and full of rich, warm colors. You wonder if your friend has stock in Pottery Barn as she takes your jacket, telling you to make yourself at home while she makes drinks.

You meander to a built-in bookcase to admire the framed photos, but realize the attractive people displayed are images that came in the frames. You also notice that the books lining the shelves aren’t books at all; they’re fiberboard decorations that look like books. Upon closer inspection, you recognize that the flat-screen television mounted above the fireplace is a photo, not TV. A bit rattled, you decide to be seated, but you find that the overstuffed easy chair is lumpy, uncomfortable and covered in cat hair.

Your friend is good at creating an outward image, but, upon closer inspection, it’s fake. You’ve been fooled by something that’s all appearance and no substance.

We are tricked online regularly by this same type of visual fakery.

We are attracted instantly to the visual appeal of a website only to be disappointed by the shallowness of the content. The site is all pretty with no smarts.

On the flip side is the site with amazing content that never gets read because visitors can’t navigate it or aren’t enticed to try because its so visually unappealing that they visit once and then never again.

We aren’t supposed to focus on outward appearances, but we do. We judge books by their covers. We judge websites by their homepages.

In a perfect world, a website would have amazing design and fabulous content. But these elements require different sets of skills. There aren’t many of us who are excellent designers, code experts and amazing writers. We also don’t all have the financial resources to hire a professional designer or copywriter.

So what do we do?

If we’re writers, do we upload a free theme and focus on writing great content? Do we spend countless frustrating hours trying to make our site more visually appealing and never have time to write? Do we write great content that is ignored because our site is ugly or amateur?

What about those great designers? Do they create a jaw-dropping site that people only visit once because the content is poor? Do they burnout quickly and abandon the beautiful site because they hate writing? Do they continually reinvent their site’s appearance in an attempt to substitute visual bling for lackluster content?

If content is king and design is queen, how do you divide the throne? By focusing on our expertise in one area or another, are we sacrificing success?

Let’s Talk Nerdy!

Is design or content more important online? Is there a way to gloss over our area of weakness without damaging the overall site? What are some examples of websites that focus on one area, but do both well?

29 comments
Ashelihud
Ashelihud

I feel like it is a mixture of both. Design is what hooks you and content keeps someone coming back in my opinion. I feel like they are a delicate balance because if there is too much of one then it becomes washed out and loses its point to the viewers. Content is crucial for a website to remain in good standing.

Google in my eyes has no design. It is the most basic webpage yet visited the most during a day. It gets the job done because when you know time and time again you will get results when you use the webpage. It doesn't have a fancy design or flashy colors. It is a white screen and so successful!

Another webpage would be People.com. It has a lot going on when scanning through the webpage but it is easy to direct around and has answers with tabs at every angle of the page. You want pictures, they have them. Bios, got those too.

NathanHatcher
NathanHatcher

As a designer, it almost hurts me to say that design isn't as important when it comes to websites.

We are naturally impatient. While a fantastic design with bells and whistles is entertaining, we should consider the primary reason we have a website.

Design should be simple and easy to navigate to get users what they want as quickly and easily as possible. Websites like Google, Facebook (before the new design) and Twitter are some of the most popular, but they don't boast cutting-edge design.

For websites with news content, readers already don't want to spend time reading an entire news article so they especially won't want to waste time trying to figure out where everything is.

I would love to design a fantastic website that had incredible content and a fantastic interface. However, without incredible content, a website is nothing more than a pretty picture, and people won't spend that much time staring at pretty pictures.

hdbbstephen
hdbbstephen

I heard something amazing at PodCamp Boston this weekend, which reminds me that the question you are asking is the wrong one. It's not that Content or Design are the ruling factors, "Helping the user" is what rules the interaction.

malexander
malexander

I can't say that content or design is more important than the other. There has to be a balance of both. The design of the website is what people will see when they first visit the page. However, if the content is horrendous, the design won't matter. Sometimes, minimal design is very nice. There doesn't need to be a lot of color and fonts for the design to look good. If there is a large amount of content, it is usually easier to deal with a simpler website design.

One website that I find to be very well-balanced is http://www.apistudyabroad.com/

In my research of study abroad programs, I found myself gravitating towards the ones that has better content and layout on their websites, simply because it is easier to navigate and do research. API has good content with a wonderful design.

http://www.sit.edu/studyabroad - This website has a simple design, but they have a mass amount of content. I think this is more appropriate because I would not want to be overwhelmed with colors, fonts, and text. The simple layout makes the website easier to navigate and you don't get lost.

JKA
JKA

Anything that has your name or that you represent like a company or team you want to make sure it looks its best. There should be no need to have ass it if it represents you because it than it shows a bad image and maybe first impression. So websites that have you name on it make sure you put the effort and not hurt your image .

AustinClarkEnnis
AustinClarkEnnis

My opinion is that in the end, you cannot make up for bad content. Obviously you should always be looking to improve your look especially with something so public like a website that is important to your business, but if you don't have anything to go by you're not going to do well in the end.

Lnkeesee
Lnkeesee

As we talked about in previous discussions, because we DO judge books and emails by their cover or title, it has to catch my eye in order for me to consider the site. If a company cares about their image and what the portray to consumers then the will spend a little extra time on the queen (design) for a better long term benefit. For a real life example, what would people think of Albert Einstein if he had combed his hair? maybe a bad relations but you get the point. As much as we say don't judge a book by its cover, 1st impressions are never lost.

Here are some good examples of a few

a king and queen website

http://www.discountschoolsupply.com//Community/ParentResource.aspx?es=7913410000W

a king website

http://web.archive.org/web/20101225204203/http://teacherxpress.com/

a queen website

http://lesailes.hermes.com/us/en/

eayoung
eayoung

I think it website is different. I am wanting to be a event planner when i finish school, well on all sites that I see about event planning has plenty of pictures, and for the most part has not content. Which for this type of business i think is totally perfect. Not all content can applied to each event. But on a sports website, probably content would be more important than graphics, so every website and occassion is different. One website I think is balanced out is Nike website. Nike had plenty of graphics and pletny of content about the shoes and what is going on with the company currently.

jai.grant
jai.grant

I think it depends on the type of product the website is trying to promote. For example, if you are trying to promote yourself as a photographer, you may want to emphasis your website design since you are trying to display your work. Content can help enhance the consumer experience, but the design, I think, would hold their attention. When it comes to prompting a new book, I feel there should be a stronger emphasis on content because the overall goal is to highlight the information in the book. The design of the website is important as well, but not as much as the content. I think if you can determine exactly what it is that you want to portray about your product, then you will know rather to emphasis on design or content. I do think both are important to have within every website though. Some websites that I think balances both areas well are the Lakeside Women’s Hospital website for content, and Target’s website for design.

BruceSallan
BruceSallan

Hey, I'm a guy...I still go by looks! Lol...

FReyes
FReyes

I do believe it is necessary to spend the extra hours on making a site more visually appealing, while still writing interesting content. I think there needs to be balance. It is important to maintain this balance of having a nice attractive webpage with up-to-date content. It is very frustrating when a webpage is set up in a confusing way, making it difficult to navigate and find what you need. It is also annoying when the content of a website is not updated. It is easy for customers when a webpage is set up with a nice design and interesting content.

One website I think has great content but the page is cluttered and sometimes difficult to navigate and find specific information is http://newsok.com

A website I think is attractive and easy to navigate is http://wimgo.com/oklahoma-city-ok

aschexnayder
aschexnayder

In the grand scheme of things, content is more important- without good content, what do you really have besides some pages full of nothing? Design elements can be kept simple and clean, but you can't really make up for bad content.

I think the simplest way to gloss over lack of design skills is to keep things simple. There is the age-old KISS standard- keep it simple stupid! But, without some experience in realizing how much less can equal more, it's easy to overcomplicate things. I think it's much easier to learn by example from good design, rather than to learn by example from good writing. I'm not sure how I would go about glossing over bad content- say, if I were working as a designer for a company- but I suppose I could design the pages well enough so that the best parts were highlighted well, and the more flawed content is not as "front and center".

http://www.eatliverun.com/ is an example of excellent content with simplified design. It's a little cluttered on the lefthand side, but the eye is automatically drawn to the large pictures and text that is the focus of the blog.

http://www.oklahomashakespeare.com/ is an example of excellent design with poor content. I do stick around for a minute to try and find out more information, but I don't find good content, so I leave.

Nik T
Nik T

To me content is the most important thing on a website. Like the article says "without content you're sunk". Without good content you will not get any repeat visitors, and there is no way you will get more business.

I don't know about other people, but when I visit a website most of the time I know what I want out of it. If the website is ugly, but it has what I am looking for, it doesn't deter me from viewing the website time and time again. However if the website was good looking, and didn't have what I needed at the time, I would have no interest in revisiting.

I don't visit many websites regularly, other than the OCU websites and facebook. However one site that I noticed that does a really good job of both would be espn.com. Of course the site is content based because people want to know what's going on in sports news, but since it is a large company they are able to hire high dollar designers to give their site an aesthetically pleasing look. An example of a website thats more about being flashy would be the air jordan website jumpman23.com. The site is very cool with lots of flashy displays, which works well because there isn't much content to be seen. The focus of the site is 'trendy' shoes and clothes, so it makes sense to have a trendy looking site. So in a sense by focusing more on design they are enhancing their content as well.

profkrg
profkrg moderator

@hdbbstephen I guess then my question would be, "What best helps the user?" It seems that you don't have a chance to help them without the content, but you also need the design to make them seek your help. True?

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Nik T
Nik T

@Lnkeesee Haha so you're saying Albert Einstein would have been taken less seriously with a more serious haircut? Anyway I'm just giving you a hard time but i really commented to say did you know his theory of relativity (Nothing can travel faster than the speed of light) Was actually proven false the other day? http://www.heraldsun.com.au/technology/scientists-upend-einsteins-theory-of-relativity-in-swiss-experiment/story-fn5izo02-1226144453330 I'm not into science really, but i thought it was interesting!

FReyes
FReyes

@eayoung I agree that the Nike website is balanced well. The products are easy to find and there is information on each product. I think it is true that each website is different and some may need more content than others. It just depends on the products and what is being promoted.

malexander
malexander

@jai.grant I totally agree. Ensuring that there is a balance in very important. I don't think the design should distract from the content. If the design is too elaborate, the consumer may get lost and not fully absorb the message of the content. Additionally, I agree that the content could be more important than the design since that is the purpose of the website. Still, there is definitely a balance to ensuring that the website appeals to the reader.

FReyes
FReyes

@jai.grant I like your post. I also agree that each webpage should be different and designed specifically to promote your product. Content is very important too. This allows readers to know about your product and any other details that may be informative.

eayoung
eayoung

@jai.grant I totally agree with you. Each website is kind of "to each is own" type of thing. I never thought about a photographer website. But is kind of the same as a event planner website, you would like lots and lots of pictures, to show the creation. Graphics always keep peoples attention!

jai.grant
jai.grant

@FReyes I agree with you. It can be very frustrating when a website is hard to navigate through. I usually leave a website immediately rather then spending time learning the site. I do like Wimgo's site as well, especially since the content involves the actual place I live in.

malexander
malexander

@aschexnayder I definitely agree that Oklahoma Shakespeare needs to improve their site. When I went to look up the shows this summer, I got lost trying to find times and buy tickets. I ended up having to type in the link which was typed into an image. The image wasn't clickable and I could not copy and paste the text.

I also agree that bad content cannot be made up for with design. If your website has no message, there isn't anything you can do about that. It defeats the purpose of having a website to begin with.

Nik T
Nik T

@aschexnayder I agree that content is the most important, and definitely with the keeping it simple portion. It can only make your webpage worse to try and overcomplicate things when you really don't know what you're doing in that area. If you have good content and you can make a good clean page, I feel there is nothing wrong with a downloaded theme.

eayoung
eayoung

@aschexnayder I agree with you on a good way to gloss over something is simple. But I do not know if being simple can keep peoples attention as well. But I do agree you do not want anything to complex.

jai.grant
jai.grant

@aschexnayder I agree you can not really make up for bad content. I also believe keeping things simple on a site can be a great way to balance content and design. If a website has an clean layout then your visitors can explore the site better and feel more comfortable moving throughout it, which can keep them coming back.

Lnkeesee
Lnkeesee

YES i hate it when i can't find what I am looking for. For example in the project we are doing for THIS class. I was looking at the containers store website and could not find the simplest things like there mission statement or long term goals which every company SHOULD want there consumers to be well aware of and not make me look for over 30 minutes to get what MAY be the mission statement but may not be lol it is very frustrating @jai.grant

Lnkeesee
Lnkeesee

The company should already know the content they want to display it is the design that will attract the customer. I agree hoping the company cares enough about itself to make their web page "approachable" @jai.grant

Trackbacks

  1. [...] talks about it here [ The Content is King Myth Debunked ], Kenna Griffin talks about it here [ If Content is King and Design is Queen, How Do You Divide the Throne? ] and finally Lee Odden talks about it here [ What makes Great Content Great? [...]