By Andy Dyer

Words & pictures. The chicken and egg of website design

Copywriting

Website design

Word & pictures. The chicken and egg of website design

Words and design should always work hand in hand. Great copy can be ruined by a bad layout. Beautiful design is killed dead by turgid copy. But like the chicken and the egg, which should come first? Should the design fit the copy, or the copy fit the design?  

Designers struggle with a blank sheet of paper. Working blind makes it hard to nail the designs first time. Brief a designer without copy and odds are, they’ll do one of two things: 

  1. Make it up (alarm bells should be ringing now at the thought of designers writing copy – a dentist doing heart surgery comes to mind).  
  2. Whack in Lorem Ipsum, (designer speak for “Give me the effing copy”). Lorem gives you a starting point, but it’s never right in terms of structure and length. As a result, you have designers doing many rounds of amends. It’s time consuming and frustrating (bang goes that client deadline and budget!) 

The answer is that it makes sense to start with the copy. Ideally, you’d give your designers the final copy, but waiting until it’s 100% perfect can double your project’s timeframe. Common sense is required.  

But what do clients want? After all, they pay the bills. One thing’s for sure, they don’t want to be lumbered with a ton of content to produce on week one of a project. Saying “Hey Mr or Mrs client – you get your head down and write us a load of copy and we’ll get on and do some pretty pictures.” is the quickest way to stall any project. Also, most clients like to see designs first (pictures are always more exciting than word docs). 

So what’s the best way to keep clients, designers and copywriters happy and all working efficiently? The answer is two words: Collaboration and Conjunction.

Conjunction means copy and design working in tandem. At Epik, we use this simple 10 stage plan. 

Stage

Overview

% to final copy at end of stage

Agency or client?

1

Agree site size: number of pages and page headings.
Start ‘look and feel’ designs.

1%

Agency draft, client approve 

2

Agree draft headings, approx. copy length for each section and key points

5%

Agency draft, client approve

3

Research and agree keywords 

10%

Agency draft, client input and approval

4

First draft 

25%

Agency

5

Second draft. Use this to design the site and brief developers 

60%

Client 

6

Third draft. Give to developers so latest copy can be viewed in situ 

85%

Client

7

Fourth draft. Copywriter polish

95%

Agency 

8

Fifth draft 

97%

Client

9

Legal & Board sign off

100%

Client

10

Final copy inputted into site. Final in-situ check and push live 

100%

Agency and client 

Three things to note. 

  1. The agency kicks off. We’ve got the experience and it avoids clients being lumbered on day one with a copy task. 
  2. Designers need just enough copy to start designing – it shouldn’t take long to get there
  3. As a result we have the maximum amount of time to develop the copy while the developers build the site 

Collaboration means the agency and client working together as a team, sharing the ‘pain’ of copy and following a logical and efficient process.

At Epik we’ve done it many times before and know the drill. So, to avoid one of the biggest friction points in your next website project (you guessed it, copy). And to make sure you get a killer website that looks sh*t hot with punchy copy, call Epik on +44 207 459 4433.