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Episode 3: The Importance of Content

In Part 3 of our five-part series on developing better websites (published on, Astute CommunicationsAnna Stout shared keen insight into the incredible importance of having worthwhile content ready to be published before a website has been created, as well as her disdain for Lorem Ipsum.

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Content as a Foundation

Stout learned a hard lesson early on in her web design and development career. Don’t begin designing when content is non-existent. She once waited on a client for an entire year in order to receive content for that company’s new website. Time and again, she’s seen a lack of content as the main reason for a majority of holdups with design projects. Though many design firms will create new websites without content, Stout refuses to do that anymore.

“The website should be built around the content, not vice-versa. If you’re building out the website and then adding content, it’s just a template. There’s no reason to pay for a custom design.” In other words, if you’re going to create a conversion-generating website (see Part 2 of our conversation), you need to give as much attention to your content as to your design. Without being deliberate and intentional with the type, form, and amount of content on your website, your site map, user flow, and customer acquisition funnel become far less valuable.

content foundation

Content as a Guide

Superb content is part of the foundation of your website, but it also serves to tell your story to your clients or customers. According to Stout, content is:

How you tell people what they’re looking for. It’s how you tell them what they need to know, and it’s how you communicate any features and benefits that you’re offering, any information that people may need to gather. Without the content, you don’t have anything.

When a full-time web designer and developer espouses the necessity of content, companies ought to listen. But even though companies have heard that “content is king,” they often still refrain from giving content its proper respect, whether from a lack of time, a lack of money, or the unfounded belief that a pretty website will solve all of their problems.

content guide

Content as a Solution

This stems from companies that tend to misunderstand web designers’ foundational process. While designers do seek to make appealing websites, that’s not their main goal. Successful designers and developers create websites to solve problems. Content is an integral part of the solution, so Stout encourages her clients to have 90 to 100 percent of their MVP content ready to go before she begins working on creating their new website.

MVP, in this instance, means “minimum viable product,” a startup term Stout appropriated for her clients when it comes to content. Instead of telling her clients that she needs every last line of content they could conceive of ever placing on their website—a daunting task for any person—she asks for just enough content “so that we can launch to get your message across to tell your story.”

To discover what that minimum viable content product is, Stout has her clients complete a content document (download a free sample document) that essentially follows the website’s site map. With each page of the website, she asks what kind of information needs to be included on that particular page. Stout tells her clients, “This should be a fun process for you to help you achieve your business goals, but it does involve a little leg work.”

She also encourages her clients to consider hiring web copywriters to help them create such content: “Enlisting a copywriter is invaluable because that’s what they do. They can take your ideas and they can turn that into beautifully written copy that will convert.” If you’d prefer to tackle the content yourself, she’s also shared some of her favorite resources for writing effective website contentcontent solution

Content as a Process

When it comes to creating copy for a new website, Stout is quick to mention that “it’s an iterative process every time.” In other words,

The best thing that we can do is try to create a website that accommodates the knowledge that we have about your specific industry and about the way that users behave today and try to future-proof it . . . But there are changes that we can’t anticipate, so it’s important to remember that you have stability here. We want to have plan, because a plan is ultimately going to make us more flexible.

Content as a Necessity

Lastly, Stout shared her disdain for Lorem Ipsum, the dummy Greek text that’s often used as a placeholder for content on website mockups. Too many companies still believe that content can simply be slotted into a template once the main design and development work has begun, but Stout ardently believes that such an outlook ultimately defeats the purpose of even developing a new website. Stout wishes that Lorem Ipsum didn’t even exist so that she could honestly tell clients that she can’t continue working until she’s received real content.

For the best return on investment into a new website design, Stout seeks “to have as much information as possible so that all of our decisions are informed. Without content, we have no information.”

Once she’s received useful content from a client, Stout then turns her attention to building the site through wireframing and designing the site’s architecture, the topics of our next discussion. Consider also listening to a similar podcast episode I recorded with Kane Jamison from Content Harmony on The Three Pillars of Effective Content Marketing.

Clark Buckner is the Online Events Manager at TechnologyAdvice, an Inc 5000 company connecting buyers and sellers of business technology. He is a conference podcaster who enjoys working with events like BDconf Nashville and ConvergeSE. Special thanks to Chago’s Cantina for the space to do the recording.