Content is More Important than Design

Content is More Important than Design

Now I know that some web designers out there can’t wait to get to the comment section to “rip me a new one,” but please humor me and read through my reasoning here.  I hope you will see this is a well thought out and valid argument worth your time.  Then after reading you are more than welcome to “let me have it” in the comments.

We have all heard “Content is King” - so many times that we probably forget exactly what that means and why it is important.

Google and Craigslist as Examples

Simple isn’t always bad.  Simple can be a very good thing.  Take a look at two of the most popular sites on the web, Google and Craigslist.  They are extremely simple without a whole lot of design work.  It is the content that makes these sites so valuable.  Granted Google’s content is a little different as their content is the value of their search results and Craigslist is all user generated content with the purpose of finding interested parties, but they accomplish their goals.

How about MySpace vs Facebook as another example?  At one time MySpace was by far the largest and dominate Social Network on the Web.  Fast forward to the present, and it has been taken over by Facebook.  One of the big differences between the two sites is MySpace allows users to completely design their pages through custom CSS and templates.  Facebook locks users into a pretty neutral theme.  These loud, noisy, and sometimes obnoxious MySpace profiles have been buried to the corners of the internet and now Facebook stands supreme with its simple design.  I’m sure some of you are already arguing, “Well yeah, some people should never be allowed to design a webpage” and I would agree, but that isn’t really the point I’m making here.

A perfect reason about why people shouldn't be allowed to design webpages much less MySpace Pages

Expired Content is Worse than Worthless

Staying relevant is vitally important.  Nothing is worse than visiting a site and seeing banners for events that happened last month still being promoted.  A few years back I was going through a redesign process of an Art website, and the group wanted to have pretty flash banners along with elaborate images promoting all the upcoming events.  When it was asked “Who is going to create these new graphics?” and more importantly “Who is going to decide and start announcing events early enough to have a designer create these graphics?” the answers were all, “I thought you were going to do that for us.”  The greatest power of a CMS is that it allows “almost” anyone to edit a webpage without being an HTML expert.  Unfortunately a good easy button for Photoshop experts has yet to be built.

Being able to quickly and accurately keep websites updated with relevant and important information is crucial.  Imagine going to Weather.com to look at today’s weather and seeing yesterday’s forecast because it takes too long to create a rain cloud graphic for today or they haven’t gotten around to updating the weather in your location.  A lot of good that’ll do you when you are soaking wet trying to get home from your adventure today.

Search Engines Don’t Care About Design

Now putting on my strictly SEO hat - it’s extremely easy to make the argument for content over design.  As I’ve said in *other posts* search engine bots are the dumbest, blindest users who will visit your site.  They can’t see images besides reading the file name and an alt tag associated with an image.  Crawlers have a hard time reading flash and can’t handle JavaScript either.  So all that fancy and flashy design doesn’t do a lick of good to helping your unique content get indexed in search engines or get found.

Yes that is right - go take a look at a lynx browser and you will see what your site looks like to a search engine.  Not the prettiest thing out there, is it?  Can you figure out what you are doing on this graphically challenged version of your site?  If not, you might want to spend some time working on that.

Closing

Now am I saying that design doesn’t matter at all?  Of course not!  I’m simply saying that what your site consists of is more important than what it looks like.  So next time you begin to talk about a redesign or creation of a new site spend more time focusing on what is the value adding content that will be placed on the site instead of what it looks like.

Photo Credit: Fan of Four Kings by incurable_hippie


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craigslist, custom css, facebook, google, interested parties, myspace profiles, templates, user generated content, valid argument, web designers

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This post was written by:

Kyle James - who has written 197 posts on .eduGuru.

Kyle is an Inbound Marketing Consultant at HubSpot and  formerly the webmaster at Wofford College. Kyle is an active contributor in the social media spectrum. Although his background is technical, he claims to know a thing or two about marketing, but mostly that revolves around SEO, analytics, blogging, and social media. He has spoken at multiple conferences on topics ranging from e-mail marketing to social media and Web analytics. He's definitely a fairly nice guy.

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19 Responses to “Content is More Important than Design”

  1. Avatar image
    Drew Says:

    I’m in the late stages of developing a Photoshop expert button. It’s a wordpress plugin. You hit the button, enter your text, which is routed directly to a support center in Bangladesh. Instant art-directed imagery returns to you in 20 seconds. This app will do for content what the microwave has done for hot pockets. ..making your above arguments null and void. Sorry Kyle.

    Reply

  2. Avatar image
    Kristen Raves Says:

    Kyle, I have to say that I completely agree. I am not saying design is not important because it is. However, if you have a webpage that is pretty but has no content it will never get picked up by the search engine.

    I used to work for a blogware company and have seen significant data on this. In fact, I would have to argue with clients that creating the content was more important than the look. There is stats that show your page view times increase with a more appealing design. On the other hand, I have also seen people stop creating new content for a month and they completely lose all of the readership. Again, this backs up your point on why Content is King!

    Reply

  3. Avatar image
    Will at SEO Keyword Ranking Says:

    There’s certainly a balance to be had between design and content, but content deserves the front seat. The design should help your visitors find the content. A good designer realizes this and will be able to create a layout that will complement the content and give it the visual panache that it deserves.

    Reply

  4. Avatar image
    Seth Meranda Says:

    Content is certainly the element that is demanded in a web site and on web pages. Without the content, the site lacks reason.

    Though I believe we agree in principle, your use of design in the broad terms is not entirely accurate. Design presents content. Design encompasses architecture, hierarchy of information (which is important for SEO), user interactions, work flows and aesthetics.

    You mention Google, a site “without a whole lot of design work.” In fact, the design behind Google is one of the most researched, thought-out and convention-setting interfaces available. Don’t confuse a minimalist approach for a lack of design.

    Reply

  5. Avatar image
    Todd Says:

    The content vs. design argument is so 2002, and pretty sure content got the crown back then, too. Active *participation* by the content experts off the .edu site is what I crave now.

    Reply

  6. Avatar image
    Samantha Says:

    There is no doubt content is way more important than design. In fact, I prefer websites that keep their themes and designs as simple as possible. Fancy websites have a tendency to load longer as well. But all in all, I don’t really pay attention to the creativity as long as the content is good. College Stories

    Reply

  7. Avatar image
    Heidi Cool Says:

    I heartily agree. As the Shaker’s said, “Don’t make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, don’t hesitate to make it beautiful.”

    As A Web designer I tend towards fairly simple streamlined designs. I let the goals and user needs drive the content, which in turn drives site architecture, which then guides my design. Technically all of this falls under the idea of “design” but I think what you are getting at is the visuals. I want the visual elements on my pages to frame the content and (in the case of photos and illustrations) reinforce whatever ideas are being conveyed.

    Mainly I want to make sure that my sites are easy to use and that my design doesn’t get in the way of the user experience. I think we’ve all seen many sites that are visually beautiful to look at, but after we stop ooohing and ahhing over the design we realize that they are hard to navigate or feature colors that inhibit readability.

    Unlike a painting which can stand on looks alone, a Web page is something we must interact with. Visual elements on the page provide us with cues and meaning that guide us through this interaction. As such these elements must be clear and obvious to a broad spectrum of users. If we let the content guide our design choices, we’ll have an easier time creating sites that serve our visitor needs in terms of both form and function.

    Reply

  8. Avatar image
    camelCase Says:

    Aside from Seth and Todd, I worry for each participant here. Of course, not as much as I do for the author.
    While your thesis (content over design) is valid, each argument is drastically flawed. From your ideas about “expired” content and search engines disregarding design, each is ill-informed.
    I’d expect more research from a publication even of mediocre size like this, but I suppose anyone can set up Wordpress installation these days…

    Reply

  9. Avatar image
    wilhb81 Says:

    I totally agreed, Kyle. Go figure, the site’s designation is brilliant, but the site’s contents are suck! I bet most of the readers won’t even bother to visit the site at all…

    Therefore, remember that “web content is the main core” of one website/blog!

    Reply

  10. Avatar image
    drew Says:

    lets sum in all up. https://twitter.com/zeldman/statuses/804159148

    Reply

  11. Avatar image
    MySpace Design Says:

    I certainly agree that content is far more important than design. Being a graphic designer, my work is pretty much useless unless there is actually consistent and updated content on my webpages.

    Reply

  12. Avatar image
    The Agra Indian Says:

    This is the biggest mistake people often make while developing their website and when people out source the designing work they focus only on the looks of website. Sometime a good looking webpage becomes too heavy to load in the browser.

    That not only affect the seo but also increase the bounce rate. No one want to see a website that is taking too much time to load, they just click on another link on search engine result page.

    Reply

  13. Avatar image
    David Says:

    I am surprised this debate still rages on. Without content you have no visitors and no site relevance.

    People search for information not flashy banners, give your visitors what they crave and you will be the winner.

    I firmly believe by keeping your visitors happy you keep the search engines happy. And when you have that traffic you then decide how you want to monetize it.

    Reply

  14. Avatar image
    Ryan v. Says:

    Sure a good looking page goes awesome in a example portfolio etc, however your correct in stating that a design has absolutely no weight when it comes to ranking. Obviously things under the hood (h1,p’s,etc) all need to be correct but that’s all layout not design.

    Good post keep em up

    Ryan v - Dempsey Graphics

    Reply

  15. Avatar image
    Sandip Saini Says:

    You made some good points there. I searched this topic and found out that most people will agree with your blog. It’s good.

    Reply

  16. Avatar image
    Clayton Shumway Says:

    I liked your take on why Facebook outgrew MySpace. Simple, clean design is always more pleasing than clutter. Some designers place too much emphasis on flashy graphics, but a clean design with accessible content is king.

    Reply

  17. Avatar image
    Dragan Says:

    Content is KING!!!

    Reply

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