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Hospitality Insights

Content First vs. Design First Website Design

11 February 2019


Should you write the content first or design the website first? It’s a question that many of our hotel and travel partners ask and has the potential to really make or break the success of a website if done incorrectly, as well as creating friction in the agency/client relationship. Over the last few years and across many web builds, we are regularly faced with this ‘chicken or egg moment’; not having adequate content to place into a design while also needing to guide the hotel’s content generation through designing layouts. Many hotels like to be guided by design so they can fill in the gaps, taking the pressure off having to come with things from scratch. I’ve put together a few arguments for and against the different approaches and explain a bit about how we have come to approach this dilemma.


Design First – Pros


Design First – Cons


Pros of content first


Cons of content first


The Umi approach

So if there are significant pros and cons for each side of the argument how do we move forward?

Commercial goal-oriented thinking

Rather than start with either design or development, we have adopted a process more similar to design thinking and start by reviewing all the commercial goals of the hotel and matching them up with key buyer personas. If the hotel doesn’t have this information available then it’s a great point in time to work through some Segmenting Targeting and Positioning exercises. Once these have identified been identified and we have perhaps 3 revenue streams and 4-5 personas, we can map out the user journey for each; putting ourselves in the minds of exactly how the different personas will get to the revenue endpoints in the most efficient way.

It is very important to note here that we have not started designing.. nor have we started thinking about content; we are simply designing a user experience that ensures we convert for the right people along the right revenue streams. With this UX in place, we can then plan out what sort of content a user might need in order to convert. This gives the hotel some guidance on what content to produce while ensuring it’s going to fit into the UX in a goal orientated way; always asking ourselves what does the customer want or need to know at this point.

Structured flexibility

Now comes the creative part where the design team can finally get their hands dirty. We have tried as much as possible to move away from page design, preferring instead to move towards creating modules that can be built bespoke and can be reused throughout the site as the content marketer sees fit. What I am 100% NOT talking about is a page builder, or those pesky drag-and-drop tools. They provide a sure fire way to have a very confusing, inconsistent website purely down to the vast number of styles and combinations that can be put together. No – I’m talking about creating bespoke, designed modules such as:

There can be so many variants but if the website designer and developer can create a consistent but flexible set of modules, these can then accommodate any future content marketing initiatives while going through a design approval process that doesn’t hold design back. Our partner hotels are now warming to the idea of approving certain modules as opposed to entire page layouts which is both speeding up the process and also empowering the content marketer. They are now able to be more creative and produce content in unique and interesting ways while knowing that all their modules are from an approved stylesheet that is bespoke to the hotel.


Want to take a look?

We would love to take you on a little tour of how this might work for your business; our developers have spent the last 6 months creating an excellent development toolkit and accompany process called the Umi Base. We’re really proud of the results it is now delivering and can’t want to show it off. Let us know if you’d like to check it out and we’ll book in a time!


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