Which comes first? Website copy or website design?

It’s a classic chicken-or-the-egg dilemma. If you’re trying to enhance your online presence by creating or revamping your company website, where do you start—with the copy (text) or with the design (visuals and layout)?

If you spend all your time and budget generating copy without consulting a designer, then you may end up with text that:

a) doesn’t suit onscreen reading habits

b) doesn’t encourage users to engage with your content

c) doesn’t fit with the designer’s vision for the overall user experience, or

d) all of the above.

On the other hand, if you start with website design, you may get a site template that looks gorgeous but doesn’t allow you to create the style or amount of copy that will reel in your target audience.

So the choice between copy and design is truly a riddle. It defies a simple answer because producing a website requires a range of skills. Ideally, any website development involves both a writer and a web designer, working closely together from the get-go.

But here’s the rub: neither copy or design actually comes first. Your audience does.

Before you start thinking about word counts or trying on templates, you need to become intimately acquainted with your target audience. It’s not enough to fill out a routine user persona template or consult market statistics. You must get to know your audience from the inside out so you can design text, graphics, layouts, and interactive features that will draw them into your site.

Ultimately, your website doesn’t exist to produce click-throughs or even opt-ins. Its purpose is to draw site visitors into a deeper relationship with you than they had before they landed in your web world. To do that, it needs to appeal to them in personally meaningful ways, through text and visuals that resonate with them emotionally and deliver immediate value.

The audience that shows up at your web doorstep is looking for something? What is it? Information? A chance to exercise their curiosity? Emotional relief? A solution to a problem that’s been plaguing them for years? A scratch for an itch they feel but can’t yet name?

To create a website that draws your audience into closer relationship with you, you need to put your customers or clients in the driver’s seat from the beginning of the design process. That means doing some thorough detective work to figure out all the baggage they bring with them when they land on your site, including their values, feelings, informational needs, cognitive biases, and practical reasons for surfing the Internet.

You don’t need a Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot to do that detective work, but it does help to have some guidelines. That’s why I’ve created the Web Copy Blueprint, a step-by-step planning document that sets you up to design and develop a website that will entice your ideal clients or customers.

Grab your copy today! If it sparks some ideas or questions, let’s chat: dawn@dawnhenwood.com.


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