Web design – it’s all about the words

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I have been struck by some comments and discussions I have heard this week on online marketing podcasts that I listen to.

On the majority of websites with which I have been involved, we have written the copy for the client. It seems the most logical thing in the world working in an integrated agency.

When I did a piece for Boag World about how the responsibility for the website should reside with marketing, I included reference to the importance of copy and hence how marketing needed to be in charge of that. For me it has always been taken as read that the copy for a website comes from the agency.

Two comments got me thinking. Firstly, a director at a web design agency was discussing how he was thinking that he might look at employing a copywriter. This guy is the creative director for a sizeable web agency and also a well known personality in web design. It struck me as strange that someone who should understand the creative process didn’t appreciate that actually the message is the key foundation in offline and online marketing, and so in website success.

Driven by consumer insight and an understanding of how your product fulfils the need of that consumer, the words communicate. The visual layout, creative concept and/or imagery are there to dramatise the message, provide a visual metaphor perhaps, or to add value in bringing the message to life – all valuable elements I grant you. But as one of my colleagues said; “They say picture paints a thousand words, I’ll do a website with 1,000 words on it, you do one with one picture on it. Let’s see who drives most response!” I can’t argue with that can you?

The second comment that I heard in an interview was relating to refreshing and redesigning websites. Notwithstanding that a site needs to be usable and intuitive, never mind accessiable, this interviewee made the very astute comment that if a client has only a very limited budget they would benefit more from a site re-write than they would from a site re-design. Now there is food for thought for all the agencies that call themselves web design agencies. Maybe therein lies the problem?

For me I’m happy that we start by opening Word and not by opening Photoshop when looking to deliver online marketing success.

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On 25 August 2009

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