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Start Your Website Redesign with Great Copy First

By Kristen HicksApr 10, 2017

You’re ready to redesign your website and it’s time to plan out the process. Where should you start?

While opinions sometimes differ on this, for our money the answer is clear: You should focus on copy first, and then move on to design. A copy-first approach to website redesign can provide better results and a smoother process for a few key reasons.

1. Working on the copy gives you a chance to clarify your branding.

Part of the copywriting process involves researching your competitors and working out or clarifying your positioning. Those are crucial steps in figuring out exactly what you want your new website to be.

When you focus on providing that clarity early on, by the time you bring the design team on they’ll be able to develop a visual design that furthers the goals and messaging you’ve already developed.

If you’ve got a good design team, you can count on your website looking good whenever they come into the process, but if they start after the copy’s done, it will look good and work to support the message your website communicates.

2. A design-first approach places too many limitations on the copy.

Many copywriters have been handed a great-looking design with a few spaces filled in with “lorem ipsum” text that they must match with their writing. That limits them before they even start; you risk forcing them into a corner where they’re more focused on character count than getting the right message across.

Some may argue that good copy is often brief, so having a design structure in place that provides a set limit on how much you can say can rein in the impulses of wordy copywriters. But anyone who has worked with copywriters or as a writer themselves knows that editing is the best process for cutting down on copy that’s too long. You can always work with your copywriters to make the copy more concise when you feel that’s needed. You’re better off working that out in the copywriting and editing process, rather than starting with those limits.

When copywriters can focus on the message first, they can make sure each web page says exactly what it needs to. They can write the best CTA and persuasive copy, rather than just figuring out copy that has the right number of characters. That’s what you want from a website re-write.

3. Completed copy can provide design inspiration.

If your copywriters come up with the perfect metaphor that helps people see the value of your product, that image could drive the design. A tagline or headline that talks about rising above the competition could, for example, inspire a design that incorporates images of balloons.

Your copy won’t provide such obvious inspiration to designers in every case, but even when it doesn’t put a clear image in the designer’s head, it will help them figure out how to build a page to ensure the most important words and lines get the most emphasis. That makes the designer’s job more efficient and ensures the eventual design complements the copy and positioning your copywriting team developed.

4. Testing shows you’re likely to get better results.

An opinion’s always more persuasive when you can find data to back it up. HubSpot put the copy-first concept to the test recently when they redesigned their landing pages. They focused on design first in the update and figured out copy that worked with the design they had.

They were confident the new design was better and on most of the landing pages where they made the update they did see higher conversions with the new design. On one landing page, though, the new design converted worse than the older one. Based on the improved results on the other pages, the problem couldn’t be the design itself, so they looked at the copy.

The copy between the two pages was very different, so they updated the new design with copy similar to that of the old and, voila, they saw a 20 percent increase in conversions.

The case study manages to show that both copy and design matter, but a better design on its own won’t work if your copy can’t do its job. And well-written copy is more likely to come from writers who can focus on writing the best words, rather than fitting them into a restrictive template.

Every website redesign presents its own challenges, but you can minimize them by creating a solid plan to follow and by establishing clear positioning and goals early in the process.

Ready to get started on a website redesign but have no idea how much it will cost? Get your budget in line with this free guide.

How to Budget for a B2B Website Redesign
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The Author

Kristen Hicks

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based copywriter and content marketer specializing in helping businesses connect with customers through content online.
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