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What Is Most Important for a Website, Design or Content?

Updated on August 24, 2017

Design vs. Content

Many business professionals and marketers have debated whether it is the design or the content that is most important for a website. The “design” of a website encompasses the site layout, look, and navigation. Content, on the other hand, refers to the substance of the site, the material which gives the site its purpose and usefulness. Content can include written material (also known as copy), audio, video, or other resources which provide value to users who visit the site.

Which One?

What is most important for a website?

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Content is King

The phrase “content is king” is used to express the importance of fresh, quality content in the field of marketing. This concept is especially important for online marketing for the sake of search engine optimization (SEO). Rich content that is updated regularly will help a website rise higher in the search results of engines such as Google or Bing.

The Alexa Top Ten

The top ten most visited websites according Alexa, a well-known Internet data collection company owned by Amazon.com.
The top ten most visited websites according Alexa, a well-known Internet data collection company owned by Amazon.com. | Source

Do These Sites Provide Value?

It should be no surprise that four of the top ten sites are search engines. They are (in ranked order) #1 google.com, #4 yahoo.com, #5 baidu.com (a Chinese search engine), and #9 live.com. Three of the top ten are social media sites which include, #2 facebook.com, #3 youtube.com, and #6 qq.com (a Chinese social media site). Two of the top ten are shopping sites, #8 TaoBao (a Chinese version of Amazon Marketplace) and #10 amazon.com. All of these sites provide incredible value to users and most of them have appealing designs.

However, the importance of content goes far beyond SEO. People visit websites because they believe the website has something of value to offer them. Consider websites such as the Huffington Post or ESPN. While those sites are well designed and have professional appeal, people don’t visit them for the good looks, they go for the content: the news, the articles, the pictures, and the videos.

Also consider Wikipedia which is ranked as the sixth most popular website in the world. It is the only website out of the top ten most visited sites that is not a search engine, social media site, or shopping site. It is popular because of its depth and quality of content. With over 30 million articles, Wikipedia is loaded with content and much of their content is updated so quickly some people even use it as a source for breaking news.

Beauty Rocks!

There is no doubt that quality content is critical to gaining and keeping visitors. However, visitors can become quickly disillusioned with a site that fails to meet their expectations for design and layout. If a site looks messy or is hard to navigate, users will leave. According to user experience guru Jakob Nielsen, visitors often leave web pages after 10-20 seconds. With just seconds to impact a user's initial impression, it is important to leave a good one.

Let's Get Married

One way to better understand the relationship between a website's design and content is to think about a marriage relationship. Design, the beautiful wife, is concerned with image and organization. Meanwhile, her husband, the content, is very practical, always thinking about how he can add value to the family.

Just as a husband and wife are equally important for marriage, design and content need to be treated as essential and complementary components of a healthy website. Because a website needs both quality content and good design to reach its full potential, successful Internet marketers consider both of these essential elements. They will even conduct marketing research to learn what their potential visitors consider to be valuable, both for content and design.

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