Content Driven Design

Written by Riley on August 26, 2013
Content Driven Design means you focus first on the material you are trying to show, and then place elements around it. This concept works exceptionally well for creators who want to showcase their work, and for businesses that want to promote their offerings. Unfortunately, this philosophy is often in opposition to the way many sites are made.
image: 2Design Simplpost site screenshot
2Design Simplpost site screenshot
Working with original content does take consideration, but it becomes the driving force for the rest of the design. This gives a website a unique look that cannot be copied. The product of your work is yours alone. Others can try, but they can never make it their own.

The main purpose of a website is to support the original creator. To sell what they have to offer. Other types of design philosophies attempt to squeeze in the heart of the content as the last piece.

It has become common practice for web designers to find a fully designed theme for a website, and then replace some of the images and text with those suited to their client. While this is quick and easy, it does not give the website a unique or original design. Working backwards towards the central content is rarely the best method. And this leads to thousands of sites with the same cookie cutter design.

Designing a truly unique website from scratch is rarely an easy or cheap way to go. But this method is generally how the best websites are made. Having designers handcraft a site to the client's needs is a beautiful way to make a site. You just need to find people to create the entire frontend, and integrate the backend for you. This type of design by real professionals will generally cost you $10K+ and takes a while. This is the best way to go though, if you have the time and money.

Another way to go is a hybrid approach using available frameworks and CMS tools. You can start with an existing theme (a prepackaged website design) that is already loaded with content. This is pretty much the opposite of Content Driven Design though. You are starting with something generic and then have to find a way to work your content into that finalized design. Knowing how to code all the custom CSS and HTML yourself can help, but it's also a real pain.

A minimal DIY approach to Content Driven Design can be pursued as well. Coding a site from scratch, or using specialized tools can be a great way for technically-minded individuals to build their own site. The only limits are your knowledge and time.

Making a website look and function amazingly well is generally the hard part.

Not being happy with the available choices, I created Simplpost to solve this problem for myself and others. The goal is to make a great looking original website by simply posting your own images and text. A site can really be as minimal as that. But you can do much more. Just let the content drive your design.

Start a site with as little as one image or sentence. Tools like Adobe Kuler and ColourLovers can be used to pick color palettes for you. There's plenty of resources like Subtle Patterns and other design sites that offer inspiration for finding complementary design details. And don't forget typography; fonts are critical to any text-dependent content. But at the end of the day there's no substitute for the expertise of a good designer. Simplpost is but a tool that facilitates the creative process.

Please tell me what you think about Content Driven Design. Any feedback would be appreciated. I think it's a subject that could use more attention.