What We Say: Use a Content-First Approach

content first computer typing copywriter

The nine10 team was chatting the other day about why we switched to focusing on content first for projects, especially websites. It’s been a couple of years since we made the change, and we’ve made some pleasant discoveries. But what does ‘content first’ mean?

Content first is simply the process of gathering written word, photos, and video before any sort of sketching or digital design work, and having it ready to go to create the design around. Here’s how nine10 team members describe the process and talk about why they feel it provides more value to the client.


I like to describe what we do in analogies, and a simple one I’ve come to appreciate is this. Let’s say someone comes up to you and says, “Hey, build me a container”. Well… what kind of container? What will it hold, what is its purpose? Is it for acid, milk, sugar cubes, lead pellets? Does it need to store, pour, biodegrade, be contained?

A website can do many things such as persuade, sell, inform, or even automate; when we have the content first, we can build a ‘container’ that is perfectly suited to the information provided. In the end, the client gets a better product and their audience gets a better online experience.


For the many years I have been developing, most of them have been spent creating a design first, and then trying to fit the content into what’s created. But what would end up happening was that a random element, say a video, that could have had better placement if we knew it was going to be a part of the site. By knowing what content is available, the creative team is much better able to create a more thoughtful design. With websites, we believe that content informs design, not the other way around.


A project manager loves to get projects done quickly, and a content-first approach really helps with faster turnaround times. Originally, it seemed more logical to have content developed by the client while we created the design, because then we could simply marry them together at the end and be more efficient. However, we’ve found that by creating and gathering the content first, building the site is much faster, making everyone much happier with end results.

Of course, this approach is only part of the process when building a website. Being mobile-friendly and technologically sound are two very important aspects of an online presence, along with ensuring an excellent reflection of the company’s brand, tone and messaging. Truly great websites are created by combining these elements in a thoughtful way – especially when you put the content first.

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