You’re planning to update your website design to better reflect where your business is at now.

A website redesign can be time-consuming and expensive, so it’s super-important to get it right.

But what about your website copy?

Can you get away with just using the same copy for the new site? Hmmm, probably not.

Or how about just worrying about it once the design is set? Yeah, no.

It’s no good spending all that time (and money) on a fresh new website, and then just slapping up any old copy.

While great design is important, ultimately it’s what you say that will get your customers to buy from you (and keep on coming back).

But what do you focus on first? The great new design or the copy?

Let’s consider these two options.

Design First Approach

Say you decide to approach a web designer first to get them to create a fabulous new site. They come up with a great looking design and place a whole lot of lorem ipsum text just to show you where the copy will fit in.

But when it comes time to put the copy in? They’ve left space for 150 words, while you’ve got 400 words for that section. The result is the copy gets hacked up to fit into the allocated space and it loses its effectiveness.

Copy First Approach

Say instead you get a copywriter to write your content first before engaging a designer. This is better, right? Your copywriter will consider the flow of your visitors through the website. They’ll create button text and headlines. Then your designer can fit the design around the copy.

However often copy created this way sacrifices design for function. And if you’re investing a bunch of time and money into a new website, you want it to look amazing.

It can be a bigger problem if you’re designing your own website. I’ve had instances where I’ve handed over copy to a client who has then uploaded it themselves in a way that totally removed the intention of the copy (and made me want to cry).

So what do you choose? Copy or design?

Actually, there’s another way.

Rather than trying to launch straight into design or copy, the best place to start is with your overall website structure.

A Structure-First Approach

Whether you’re doing your first website or planning a redesign, a structure-first approach is the best way to go.

To do this, you’ll consider a few things:

  • Who will be visiting your website. Different people might be looking for different information. Some people may be ready to buy, while others might want to contact you about a custom order.
  • What you want people to do. If you want them to fill out a form or take a certain action then make that clear.
  • Making your website easy to navigate. We’ve been trained to look for certain information in certain places (like a menu bar or contact page) so make sure your website includes these things and in the spots people will look.

You’ll also want to think about stuff like SEO – which keywords people use to find you and what pages they’ll appear on.

Plan this all out a big piece of paper or in an excel spreadsheet (either is fine just get it down).

You can take it one step further by roughly planning out how each of the different pages on your website will look. I use something called Balsamiq to create wireframes of specific pages to see how it flows and how the design will fit in with the copy.

burnt butter homepage exampleOnce you see how all the bits fit together, it’ll be so much easier to create a website that both looks pretty AND helps your customers find what they’re looking for.

How I Do This

Rather than just handing over a Word doc to my clients, my website copy process is now as follows:

  • Meeting to chat about your biz, your customers and your goals with your website
  • Research into your industry, keywords and competitors
  • Designing a website structure and plan
  • Creating a tone of voice guide and content guide for all your written content (handy when it comes to writing your blog posts or bringing on staff)
  • Creating a wireframe of the home page and other relevant pages showing where and how the copy will flow – this might mean creating a totally new structure for your website that’s different to what you’d expect or other people in your industry are doing
  • Presenting all this and discussing with you. If you’re engaging a web designer then this is the time to bring them on as well and chat about their design ideas and how that will fit in with the copy

Only then will I actually start to write your website copy.

When it comes time to approach a designer you can hand them over the website structure and wireframes, along with the copy so they get a better idea of how all the copy fits together. They can then design a website that both looks amazing and works with the goals for your website.

The result is a website that gets you more customers and sales.

If you’ve got questions about how the website copywriting process works, or want to chat about your upcoming project then get in touch at hello [at]