Designing the content, not just the frame
Oftentimes, a site ‘template’ is designed; common areas like headers, footers and backgrounds look pleasing enough, but the central content pane gets little design consideration. Successful web design has to consider this content first and foremost. It is, after all, the crux of the site.
This can often be the case where concerns a site managed with a CMS. The balance between designing each content type / area on an individual level to best suit its purpose and the clients’ ability to manage this content themselves is a difficult one to strike.
Designing each content type / area to best suit its purpose also adds levels of complexity, both in terms of development (affecting time and budget), and to the client who has to manage it – there’s often more work required adding, formatting, categorising, and chosing the position of content.
This extra effort however, provides a much richer user experience, and a comprehensive site that feels well designed, well thought out – not merely a site with a pretty template holding content that feels like an afterthought, disengaged and disjointed within its confines.
Recently I’ve found myself writing the above, or words to this effect, as rationale to various clients or other members of our team. It’s a process 37signals also employ, referring to the process as Epicenter design.
I like that.