Designing to Content: The Next Buzzword Oct. 2nd, 2013 Ian Carrico

Designing to Content: The Next Buzzword

October 2nd, 2013

Responsive. Mobile friendly. Mobile first. Graceful degradation and progressive enhancement. Future friendly. Content first.

Web development has been a slew of buzzwords and philosophies on how to build the most effective websites to reach the greatest audiences. Some of these buzzwords were short lived, and most have some great ideas behind them. Although we have utilized most of the concepts of each of these philosophies in the sites that we design and build, as of late we have realized that designing and building a website with the content in mind, is one of the most effective ways of true responsive design. To understand why we do this, let’s review what some of these buzzwords really mean.

Mobile First Design and Progressive Enhancement

This should be at the core of any website that is created in the modern era. The primary idea is that every design should be made by looking at the smallest, least-capable device first. Then, use CSS and JavaScript to add in more features, and more CSS as a browser becomes larger and more capable. This can be as simple as using a different layout for a mobile phone compared to a desktop browser, or as complex as using a geolocation polyfil for browsers that do not support the geolocation API. This is the heart of responsive web design, and drives forward development to always be accessible on smaller and less capable browsers.

Mobile first design and progressive enhancement are the methods we use to build the design, but they only partially describe how we should think about designing a site. For that, we need to look at more than just different devices, we need to look at what the website is being used for.

Content First Design

Designing a website is not just all about designing it to mobile browsers, it is more important to get your content across. Content is why people go to a website, and content should be the focal point for your design. So then, why do we always create sample pages with “Lorem Ipsum”? If content is truly what the web site is being utilized for, we need to focus on content in our design. This is the crux of what content first design means, having out design start with a close look at the content and how it needs to be portrayed to the user.

Practically, this means that before we design a website, we first look at what kind of content the website will be for. We look at the value of each piece of content, and how content is being used now. From there, we can design the website to put the most important content first, and allow all content to be easily accessible to all users.

TL;DR

Content is why a user comes to a site, give it to them.

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