Why You Should Start With Copy Instead Of Design

August 8th, 2017

The top marketers believe that the true power of content can be only brought to life when it dominates design.

This is why many experts agree: Content first. Design second.

Content is King

The reason behind this concept is very basic: your copy is the message you are trying to convey to your audience.

When you blend it with the right design thinking, your work outperforms itself.

This in no way indicates that we are underestimating design. It simply means that design can add great value to your content and turn any boring piece into an interesting one.

We have always known design and content go hand in hand (especially when it is a sales copy) but the lesser known fact is that content comes first.

Often marketing teams follow the design first, content second sequence when working on web pages.

The reason for this approach is- it is less time consuming and allows you to complete projects much quicker.

The problem with this strategy is that – the content after design and development restricts the copywriter and doesn’t really make the web page a sales product.

But, when you choose your content first, you can never go wrong!

Copywriters are not restricted to work on the fully baked designs and can actually experiment with content – to engage readers with what you want to tell them.

This is a good strategy that crafts exclusive pieces with the perfect blend of design and content. And like Invision clearly states- Design without content is just a mere decoration.

It’s like the chicken and the egg

It is more like the situation where both designers and copywriters ask:

What comes first: Design or content?

Website design

Why designers never follow the copy first rule

Copy before design might sound as a fancy idea but it stretches the time of any project.

The common approach is to design the website and let content and development work simultaneously. However, this approach handicaps your idea for the business and restricts you from telling a story.

But the “copy before design” approach has its very own set of rules.

And you can clearly see Hubspot following this theory religiously.

This is why many design firms create world class pieces with the seamless unison of design and content.

Let’s Start:

It’s all in the Approach:

While development can have a sole purpose and run without content, design and content work together to create a cohesive business story.

Collaborations of designers and copywriters is an approach that has proven great results for websites like Invision and Hubspot.

Here’s how you can establish a smooth writer-designer workflow:

Think of what you’re building as a minimum viable product (MVP)

Designers and writers need their time together. You cannot expect great selling masterpieces after 1 or 2 sessions of collaborations.

It always takes time for 2 creative minds to agree and nail down a concept.

And of course there will be creative conflicts but it’s better to take time together to understand how to make the best out of the situation.

Think of what you’re building as a minimum viable product.

Always start with the story

Design and Content Stories always sell.

And this is the approach you need to start with.

Build up a story by taking design along with it. Let your design convey the same message as your copy and let everything sync in.

Designers and writers can then conclude how to layout the web page and prepare a sales copy.

You’ll need the alone time

Alone time

When you have been working independently, it can be challenging for you to think out loud with a partner.

Brainstorming ideas alone is a practice you should never quit. If you are unable to bring fully formed ideas, take some time alone to deep think your idea for the business.

Come back to the table and share your views with your partner. This is a proven method for both writers and designers.

Be Open-minded

It’s never bad to have creative conflicts. It just means both the parties really want to make something work.

Be ready to take the good with the bad and be ready to settle things.

Both writers and designers have something to share about each other’s work.

Try making it work as a team despite of disagreements on the work front. The results will be glorious.

Why Content comes first

Since it is the content that goes through several rounds of revision, it opens gates to amazing ideas.

However, the designer need to match up the pace and know how the content really works.

It is important for them to understand the real feel of words to make the best of design.

Though there is nothing unusual in the approach, it slows the process.

Your copy might appear different in the design and require more alterations.

And alteration in content means alteration in the source file.

Content and Design results are remarkable

Content can shape design seamlessly.

No matter if it is a print ad, landing page or other web page, when you really understand how both flow together, it will be difficult for you to consider them separately.

Let’s consider this example of the classic Volkswagen ad.


Each and every word focuses towards a single message encouraging people to drive VW cars. Indirectly, they also ask people to reconsider the notion of big and fancy cars.

Yes words can aim for this alone, but when combined with a conceptual design, they bring out a larger picture and have impact on people’s mind.

Similarly, design can also achieve the same message, but the results are short lived and don’t always make space in minds.

It is time for us to understand the real value of both design and content.

Best designs communicate with their users but one cannot communicate if they don’t know what to say.