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Designing websites when you don’t have copy

business, design, process

You know the challenge: Your web design projects consistently get held up because the client just hasn’t delivered the content yet. I’ve seen this situation delay projects for as much as 6 months or more. How the heck can you do your job as the designer when you don’t have the copy yet? I’ve seen some small businesses try to tackle this by indicating in their proposals that they won’t even think about beginning the project until they’ve received all final approved copy. But that’s really just a band-aid solution. It doesn’t solve the real human problem at play here, which is that most people don’t know how to write great copy. If you’re a solo design business owner, you likely wear many hats (project manager, accountant, designer, etc), and while you might not be a copywriter, there’s a lot you can do to help manage the process of working with great copy in your projects. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the willingness to engage in helping provide a solution to this problem is a key part of what can separate you from a sea of other designers. It’s the difference between a designer and a strategist. If you haven’t yet read Kristina Halvorson’s Content Strategy for the Web, go do that now (it’s a web designer must-read). She makes a pretty strong case about why content is everyone’s job. “Most web project schedules postpone content development until the eleventh hour. As a result, content quality is often seriously compromised. When we practice content strategy, we ensure that our web content is treated as a valuable business asset, not an afterthought.” While I have a few preferred approaches for dealing with this, I surveyed a few designers to find out how they deal with this issue, and have outlined a few ways to keep your projects moving: Design Content Modules Think of your design elements as...

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Should you use pre-made themes or drag-and-drop builders?

design, process, productivity

Here’s my (potentially controversial) opinion on working with themes and builders. To paraphrase a great question I got from one of my Digital Strategy School students: “I see many people using drag and drop builders for clients who can’t quite afford a custom themed service. But I’ve had reservations. Basically, I’m a purist and all that bloat makes me not happy…plus the fact that if they want to move onto something else later the shortcode mess afterwards hurts my brain… plus the fact that the client can seriously fudge up their layout and functionality and USEFULNESS of their site we so carefully planned out… So, what’s the upside? Is it the time factor? Is the wiz-bang factor? Am I being too precious about it all and just do what works? *hmmpf*” EXCELLENT question, and I do have opinions about this. And you are more than welcome to disagree with me My answer to the question above is this: I’ll begin by saying that I don’t believe there is one magical way to build a website. There are “best practices,” of course, and as much as possible I try to stay on top of what’s happening in the intersection of conversion-focused and empathy-driven website design. I used to build all of my clients’ websites from scratch, and this was extremely time-consuming. I spent MANY years learning how to work with HTML, CSS, PHP and WordPress, and I still don’t really consider myself “a developer.” I started using the Divi theme a few years ago, and it has become one of my go-to themes of choice for a number of reasons. Using Divi as a starting point has probably reduced my design and development time to less than a quarter of what I used to spend. No joke. A 75% time savings. This means I can build websites much faster, and focus on really diving into strategy + adding more value for my clients.   Your clients don’t “benefit”...

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