What Comes First: Website Design or Copywriting?

Branding Design, Business, SEO, Website Design

Are you thinking about rebranding your business or redesigning your website?

There’s so much to be excited about! This is a big moment, so soak it up.

When you’re ready to make a big change in your business, it might be time to invest in a custom website that’s strategically built for your unique business.

Making this kind of investment may increase your expenses in the short term (hello, tax write-offs!) but it will surely uplevel your business for the long term. If sustainable revenue growth and visibility are your goals, a custom website will help you get there.

Since your website is the main hub of your business, it makes sense to focus on creating the best possible website for your brand.

As you start researching for service providers and assembling your “dream team,” you’ll quickly run into an all-too-common question in the process:

What part of my website should I hire out first?

As a website designer, you may assume I wrote this article to convince you to invest in design services first, but the exact opposite is true.

I’m looking out for your best interests, which is why I’m letting in on a little-known secret:

There are other steps to take before you even touch the design.

Many business owners start by hiring a designer because they’re excited to focus on all the pretty things (I mean, I can’t blame them!), but there are a few more steps you need to take before we can talk about color palettes, font choices, and brand photography.

If we were on a consulting call and you asked me if you should tackle your website design or website copywriting first, I’d give you the same advice I’m including in this article.

So, first, I’d tell you to start with a strategist!

Start by defining your brand strategy

Before you can write engaging website copy or create a gorgeous website design, you need to understand what your strategy is. There’s no getting around this step but it is hands-down the most overlooked and underrated part of the process.

As the popular quote says, “Design without strategy is just art.”

Of course, having an artistic eye for design is beneficial to your project, but you need a strong and clear strategy in order to increase your sales through website conversions. Otherwise, you’re just creating a website that looks pretty but doesn’t function properly or convince people to buy from you.

It’s incredibly important to build your website from a strong foundation. That means there are a few things you need to know before you invest in a website copywriter or designer.

You’ll want to nail down your…

If you haven’t been able to clearly define one or multiple of these elements, never fear! You can work with a
business coach or brand consultant to help you clarify what these are.

If you’re looking for a more affordable or DIY solution, there are also plenty of free trainings you can find on YouTube that will help you discover new insights. The most important thing is to have these essentials nailed down so you can share them with your website copywriter and designer.

Many website professionals ask for these details upfront through a questionnaire or intake call so they can better understand your business. It’s because we all need this information to create the best website for you!

As you can see, brand strategy will always be your first step.

From here, you can hire a visual brand designer to create your visual brand identity if you’re rebranding. However, if you’re simply redesigning your website but keeping the same logos, submarks, and other brand design elements, you can move into the next phase.

Use your brand strategy to influence your website strategy 

Even with this newfound clarity around your brand strategy, you have one more step before you can start the copywriting or design process. Luckily in this stage, the stronger your brand strategy is, the easier it will be to create your website strategy.

The interesting thing about this phase of the project is that there isn’t a clear person who “owns” this part of the project. What I mean by this is that each website copywriting and designer is going to have a different approach for defining a website strategy.

While there are some select website strategists you can hire, most designers and copywriters cover portions of this in their overall process. Website strategists also typically focus on large organizations and corporate clients who have larger websites than most entrepreneurial clients are creating.

Since you’ll be looking to your website service providers to guide you through this, the answer to “who owns the website strategy” is that it depends. That’s an annoying answer, I know, but it’s the truth.

Some website designers want you to come to them with a full website strategy, or hope for the website copywriter to come with a strategy when they deliver the final content. Other copywriters want designers to create the strategy when they create the visual mockup of the website through wireframes.

Since every person is unique, you MUST ask this essential question to each potential partner:

What role does strategy play in your process?

Then you can ask them what deliverables you will receive regarding this strategy.

Let’s say a designer answers the question by saying they don’t cover the in-depth strategy behind your website. If so, you’d want to look for a copywriter who has an extensive strategy process before they get to work on your website.

The copywriter could add a brand voice guide, strategy consulting sessions, content wireframes, or any number of things in their process to cover the strategy.

Alternatively, if the copywriter doesn’t want to cover the strategy, you’ll need to look for a designer who’s willing to cover things like SEO (search engine optimization), conversion strategies, design wireframing, or anything else that aids them in defining a strategy.

If both partners build strategies as a part of their process, it’s good to compare their processes and see if there is any overlap. You can also connect both service providers to see how they might work best together. Most designers and copywriters are used to working collaboratively, so this should be simple and straightforward.

As a designer, I love working with my clients on their website strategy before we dive into their design. If you’re DIY-ing your own copy or you’re working with a copywriter who isn’t handling the strategy, I can lead you through my signature website process. You’re going to love it!

Create your website copy with the strategy in mind

Let’s keep moving! After you’ve clarified your website strategy, it’s time to create your website copy! Are you surprised we haven’t gotten to design yet? That’s because it’s extremely difficult to create a beautifully designed website without having the final copy in hand.

Your website is truly guided by the content you write which is why it needs to come before your design. Almost any designer will tell you that a project goes SO much smoother when they already have the content finalized. This is why most website designers will ask for your website content before they get started.

Some business owners write their own copy, but I usually recommend working with a copywriter who is trained in sales copywriting. It’s a totally different style than most types of content writing.

While I’m primarily a website designer, I also offer copywriting services for an additional fee. That way, my clients don’t have to work with multiple people in the website process. I’m their one point of contact so it’s easier to meet deadlines and ensure everything is cohesive!

Since I’m a Certified StoryBrand Guide, I like to follow the StoryBrand framework with all of my clients. It ensures we understand the ethos of their brand and how their offers can be positioned as solutions to help their audience. This framework says that we aren’t the heroes of our brand story; instead, our customers should be the heroes, so we focus a lot more on what they want to hear.

When you get ready to work with a website copywriter or DIY-ing your own website copy, keep these eight tips in mind:

  • Know who you’re writing to
  • Say “you” more than “I”
  • Be concise
  • Be clear
  • Use the StoryBrand framework
  • Focus on benefits before features
  • Consider SEO before writing
  • Edit and proofread your copy

Once you’ve polished the final drafts of your website copy, you’re
finally ready for the design!

Design your website after completing the copy

I know it’s taken a while to get here, but now you can enter the design phase with more confidence and clarity. With your brand strategy, website strategy, and website copywriting nailed down, all that’s left to do is put it together with your design.

Again, every designer is going to have a different process, so it’s best to ask about their workflow before you begin the project. Make sure you have a clear understanding of their expectations, process, and what they may need from you in order to have a successful project.

I always begin my projects with a strategic brand questionnaire covering who you are, what your goals are, who your ideal customer is, and more. We’ll also discuss any design preferences you may have which is really eye-opening for me.

Then, instead of creating all of your website pages at once, I’ll start with a mockup of your homepage so you can see a preview of the design before we move forward. I call this the “homepage pulse check” in case you were wondering. Your homepage sets the tone for the rest of your website, so it makes sense for us to begin here.

After I get your feedback, we’ll revise the mockup and I’ll take everything I’ve learned to create the rest of your website pages. I’ll also make sure all of your SEO and conversion strategies are in place so we can create a beautiful and strategic website.

That’s all it takes to launch your website design!

By completing all of the steps that come before the design, we’re able to have a seamless process. That’s why I’m usually able to work with clients in a few weeks instead of our project taking several months.

What to do next 

After reading this article, you understand that the best order looks like this:

  • Brand strategy
  • Website strategy
  • Website copywriting
  • Website design

You may have other steps included in the process, like hiring a business coach or a visual branding designer, but it’s best to follow this list when booking partners for your upcoming website project.

And if you need a website strategist, designer, or copywriter, give me a holler!

What Comes First: Website Design or Copywriting?

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