I will offer some opinions here, and you can take them or leave them. However, due to my experience (and actual tests run), I hope you will take what I have to say to heart! :-)

What is it that gets visitors to your Web site to stay there, browsing, looking and buying? Is it the design? Is it the layout? No, it’s the CONTENT. The written content keeps your visitors on your site and viewing your pages.

What causes your visitors to purchase from you? The content. They read, they read some more, they find good points that creates enough interest for them to purchase.

Let’s imagine you go to a Web site and the design is wonderful. Fancy, creative graphics. It really wows you. But the content is boring, or hard to understand, or it simply doesn’t capture your interest. Will you be encouraged to buy from them?

Another important question: Will you come back? It’s extremely doubtful. Maybe you’ll go back to get that wow effect from the design again, but not because of the content. Right?

On the other hand, if you go to a site that provides excellent content (like articles or informational text) you will likely bookmark that page. You will probably share that site with others.

Maybe this page with fantastic content has just a basic design, or an ugly default WordPress template. But you still bookmark and share it. You are likely to return for a visit. And this is because there is content that is more than interesting to read and that holds your attention.

Finding a template for a Web page should be a fast and painless process. Google doesn’t care about your design, they only care about the written content and the human behavior based on that content.

My opinion is that folks spend too much time on the design of their site, modifying the template, etc… way too much time. They miss the boat in this regard. What they should concentrate on is having great content that captures interest and encourages people to return.

High quality content goes a long way to getting your visitors to come and stay. You will attract many more visitors through the search engines. You will SELL your product because of that.

Obviously, the above wouldn’t necessarily apply to those selling templates or promoting design services… ;-)

And I can’t say I am completely innocent when it’s come to getting carried away sometimes with the design. But I am ridding myself of that compulsion step by step!

—Marcus Hochstadt

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32 Responses to Content Vs. Design

  1. Ben Barden says:

    Hi Marcus, I agree that content is crucial, but a great design can boost a site that also has great content.

    In my view, a slick design grabs someone’s attention, while excellent content is what keeps their attention.

    • Abel says:

      I couldn’t agree more. Good design gives the first impression. That will drive visitors to your
      site. Content should be useful to the readers. It should be of
      quality.  It will make them stay and go back. 

  2. cellobella says:

    I’ve subscribed to some sites that frankly have absolutely rubbish design values – why? I love their content.

    To my knowledge I haven’t subscribed to sites that look lovely but offer nothing content wise.

    QED

    You’re right.

  3. With my jump into sales consulting a year ago, I decided to start a blog. What a great decision, and this parallels your point on content. I do not bother prospecting via phone anymore as my best leads come from people who read my blog.

    Why?

    1. They are looking for me
    2. They are familiar with my philosophy and obviously see value
    3. They have gone to the trouble to reach out and the cultivation of a sales ready lead is strong

    The best part is that I have people globally contacting me. One prospect is in India, another Japan, and yet another in the Philippines.

    Content builds clients, nothing else matters.

  4. Jonathan says:

    I agree with you, but there is another side to it.

    Some of us, like me, like the artistic side of the net, and I personally get a lot of pleasure from designing nice lookinh websites. So for me, I couldn’t have one without the other.

    That said, I never bookmark a pretty site that has no content.

  5. I knew this post would trigger some to start a debate… ;-)

    ~Marcus

  6. Matt Urdan says:

    I agree 100%. I strive to provide the best content that I can. The only place where I disagree with you though is that you still need to catch the eye. Dropping entrecards for example, you have to give your first time web surfers some reason to pause. Will it be content or a headline? Maybe. But great graphics that catch the eye will cause a web surfer to pause and take a look. Yes, it’s the content that keeps them, but you gotta get them in the door first.

    Cheers!

  7. Headline, Matt, all I say is Headline… ;-)

    The headline is what catches the eye and captures the visitor’s interest. At least the type of eye and visitor I want. It is what will cause the visitor to pause and take a look. It is what gets them in the door.

    I could now bring the example of newspapers, but I think you (and my other readers) get the point…

    ~Marcus

  8. mikey777 says:

    I think that a good balance between content and design is the best way to go. Neglect either one and your site will suffer. Content does tend to weigh a bit heavier than design, though. I can agree with that.

  9. bonoriau says:

    Reasonable design not to heavy and good content will really help to build up traffic…but some of the blogger just want to blog for their own fun so doesn’t matter what they want to do.

  10. earn online says:

    you can take the road that even a bad design may be remembered so they come back if the content is good. The principal still applies, CONTENT IS KING!

  11. Journeyetc says:

    After you generate content and all seems to go well, a new, improved design will help very much.

  12. On all my sites content comes first, then I get a designer to create a template and then use PHP includes to include the template throughout the site.

  13. Logen says:

    While content is king, good design will draw visitors to the relevant parts of the site. I mean, if a site has good content and yet its font was too small or its paragraphs were too cluttered, I’d leave the site within seconds.

    If the content was extremely superb, I’d subscribe to the RSS feeds instead.

  14. Design is certainly relevant as Logen mentions above – good content should help lay a path for the visitor to follow.

    Having said that content is what brings people back. People search for information or entertainment – both come in the form of content.

    The content should be easy to access and well-presented but if the content is poor no amount of great design can make up for it. Imagine visiting a beautifully laid out blog that hasn’t been updated in six months; what are the chances that you’ll hit the subscribe button?

    Great content can however, overcome poor or uninspiring design.

  15. Seth says:

    Content is always critical to the success of the site. No one likes brochure websites anymore.

    One thing I thought of, however, is that you want to be careful in getting free themes and templates. Most of them are not developed to perfection. This is important now because Google seems to care how well your site performs (we’ve run a few tests to suggest that all things being equal, the faster site wins in the results).

    Great post!

  16. I agree with your post, good content is the way to go. But without a good design you’re left with a high bounce rate. Usually visitors respond well to a clean, attractive designs.

  17. Kim says:

    We believe design and content are both critical to a good website and both can, and should, exist.

  18. Thai says:

    I don’t think it’s design vs. content. It’s to give the visitor want he/she wants to achieve when visiting a website.

  19. I could not agree more. Content is trump over layout. But the two should be definatly be opitmized together for maximum recurrence. There are also some other factors that deserve to be mentioned when addressing recurrence vistitors. Heres one of many examples id like to throw out there: Networking & Communications.

    This is just one example but there are dozens of other factors beyond content and layout, but networking and communications is a big MUST for recurring visitors. Communications could include adding a subscription option to your blog. This again ties in with “content”:the trump. If your content is great, your readers will subcribe to it with one of many subscription plugins for wordpress. Networking the counterpart to that category could include social media networking sites like twitter, facebook, myspace, and youtube. Meeting like-minded people on social platforms like those is a must in developing long lasting friendships and relationships. These “buddies” you make are sure to visit your blog often if infact they are like minded people. Networking and Comunications is just scratching the surface but there are many facets to consider when gaining trusted and recurring visitors to your blog.

    I enjoyed your post, and i hope you enjoy my feedback.

    Cheers,
    -Jonny CEO Pocketbook Promotions & author of Pocketbook Promotions: The Blog.

  20. Johns says:

    Yes, content is king, and there is no argument about that.
    The huge sums of money people spend (or waste, as one may see it) in making fancy website designs would be more usefully spent in premium content creation.
    Thanks for the insight.

  21. Dhir says:

    Marcus,

    Yes, I agree with you becuase we all know that Content is King. But Design is also important to catch the visitors attension when they visited first time your blog or website. A quality informative content+good design is success formula for any website.

    .

  22. Web Dizajn says:

    Marcus Hochstadt,

    Most part of visitors comes to my web site via google. If my web pages wouldn’t be optimized and focused around keyword phrase, in other words title meta tag and heading 1 tag are the theme of my web pages.

    So quality, focused, informational, interesting, useful, provocative and well written content around one theme gets my visitors to my web pages. But professional web design and informational architecture also gets visitors.

    Web design is not only fancy graphics, it consists of informational architecture. If informational architecture within web design is poor, content also becomes poor and with little less quality.

    Wrong, google algo is far more complex and it’s algo does care much about web design especially informational architecture.

    If you would pay much more attention to web design and informational architecture your traffic would increased, for sure no doubt.

    Content is king but web design is queen. Content is far more easily digestible with great web design.

  23. chandan says:

    Your both point content and design most important for traffic. May be you write great content, but if your blog design is not attractive then visitor will leave at once. So I think one better blog means better content and better design.

  24. dan says:

    Yes, the design is very addicting! I thought it was more appealing to the eye because nowadays it seems like no one wants to read anymore.

  25. eric says:

    I give importance to the content first, as it should be very good and unique for attracting any visitor. On the contraty, you need to make a good design for generating any traffic to your content.

  26. Josh Abeno says:

    Marcus, I agree to your article. Content plays a major role of grabbing the readers interest. The design is only secondary priority when it comes to written articles.

  27. Esposito says:

    First: great article.

    Always interesting to see clients running around changing colour shades by degrees. I feel bad for the designers, honestly. One thing is fore sure, though, if client education simply made the point you’re making above – there would be many less headaches around the office.

    I was recently reading an article on this exact topic called What comes first, design or content?(something I could show to clients for development projects, in advance of the design process), the author notes that he, “suspect[s] this is because website owners are so entrenched in their own business and its intricacies that they take this for granted and focus instead on how the site is going to look rather than what the site may need to accomplish – the goals.”

    Interesting and true! Thanks for the article, I think I’ll be using some of your pointers (in addition to the ones I found in the article) next time I decide to do some client edumacating :).

    Best Regards,
    Esposito

  28. Tim Laduke says:

    Marcus you said:

    “What is it that gets visitors to your Web site to stay there, browsing, looking and buying? Is it the design? Is it the layout? No, it’s the CONTENT”

    I totally agree with you that content is the key—it’s crucial. However, the first thing you see when you visit a website is the DESIGN—this is your first impression. Therefore, I think Design is equally important from another business model standpoint. So, instead of Content vs Design, lets have “Content & Design” = a win-win.

  29. Herber says:

    “My opinion is that folks spend too much time on the design of their site…”

    Yes. Yes they do…

    I think the design is important but no where near as important as the content (relative to the time put into it). As long as the design isn’t horrible, then people won’t care. So a simple and clean design with great content will win out over a award winning design with poor content.

  30. Sheila Mari says:

     Good quality content is more likely to get you more subscribers. How a topic is tackled will always get the attention of the readers and is more likely shared with a bigger audience. That is why the very best blogs in the world offer killer content on a consistent basis.

  31. Very helpful
    information. Thank you for sharing. This will be definitely be on my To Do List

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