Skip to main content

Do you start with the design or the copy?

When’s the last time you heard someone get excited by process? Yesterday I was on the phone with a copywriter about helping us with our content strategy and to rewrite our homepage.

We started chatting about process and I said something to the effect of:

I want to start with the copy and once we’re happy with that, hand it off to our designer to make it look awesome.

I could hear the excitement on the other end of the line.

I’m so glad you said that she replied.

Her current client started with a design full of lorem ipsum text. Then they brought her in to write the copy. After trying to force the copy in to the design, they ended up making A LOT of time-consuming and costly changes to the design.

I’ve done redesigns and new designs the wrong way in the past too. I learned the hard way that while it’s satisfying to see a pretty picture, doing design first is backwards.

Copy informs design, not the other way around

Solid copy works much better than a nice coat of paint.

That said, a great design supports content and makes the words even more powerful. But remember, it’s much cheaper and easier to change words before they’re pixels in photoshop or styles in CSS. That’s why the content we do starts in plain text / markdown.

Do you have stories of projects gone wild when you did things the wrong way around? Or do you have a process you follow now for writing copy that works wonders?

Share your thoughts in the comments.


P.S. Here’s my rough draft of our homepage re-written to focus on content rather than design. Feel free to check it out and suggest edits.

P.P.S. You should also check out this post by Justin Jackson: This is a web page