The Importance of Content Hierarchy and Priority in Your Website Redesign

Mike Maier
Mike Maier VP of Solutions & User Experience

*Note, for the purpose of this article we will focus on the homepage of a website, but the thinking holds true for the entire site

So the time has come for a website redesign. Great. Now what? Many voices will start launching their needs, desires, and ideas onto the pile. This pile will grow as you are inundated with “design samples,” feature requests, random bits of content, thoughts on “look & feel,” and many other elements from many parties all looking to get their “thing” not just on the site, but as close as possible to the top of it.

So what do you do?

What are your goals?

Some of these things may be good. Many of them not so much. But that’s not even important right now.

Respect the process.

The first thing you need to do is define your goal(s). Determine what you want from your site and who you want it from.

Now that you have a goal it’s time to create the content. Creating content geared to achieving the goal of the site will help improve the site’s chances for success. You should create a draft version of all your written content, ideas for supporting content like images, charts, video, forms, and anything else that will help support and achieve the site goals.

Important. Strategic goals, overall content plan, and a first draft of website copy should be done before the design part of the redesign. Otherwise, what are you even designing?

Alright, we have content, let’s make something pretty.

Not so fast. You’ve got a solid draft of content now, and chances are all those people from before had a hand in its creation. There is nothing wrong with collaboration, it’s how many of the most successful projects reach their true potential. But keep in mind all those people likely have their own goals and agendas, which may differ with the core goal of the site. This is fine, it’s all part of the process, but that’s also where hierarchy and prioritization come in.

Putting together the puzzle

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Armed with a goal and pile of content, the time has come to make sense of the madness. Now it’s time to put the content to work in order to achieve the site’s goal(s). It’s time to evaluate all the content that has been created and piece it together in a way that serves the users and helps them do whatever the site wants them to do.

Content Hierarchy

The content hierarchy is a simple thing. Take your goal and all your content sections and create a list. Assign each section a priority number, 1 to 8 for example. These priority numbers should take into consideration the value of the content in relation to the goal, as well as how it fits into the flow of the site and how it helps lead the user.

We could pause here for a rift on how content sliders never achieve a goal because no one ever sees past the second slide, but let’s move on.

When you’re done you should end up with something like this:

  1. Title and positioning statement
  2. Brief introduction copy
  3. Explainer video
  4. Call-to-action buttons
  5. Client logos
  6. Content/images that show value/features
  7. Stats
  8. Latest news/blog

The great thing about this list is that not only have you prioritized your content, you now know exactly how your site will lay out into a single column format (mobile first). From here you can begin to think about how you would expand and build out this content for a wide screen environment, adding design elements and expanding as the space allows.

“Can’t we just hide that on mobile?”

Everyone will want their content at the top of the list. Everyone thinks their content is the most important thing on the site and it absolutely needs to appear “above the fold.” It is not, and there is no fold. Many people can only visualize the final product on their desktop browser and as such fail to see the whole picture. If you fall into this trap, you are likely to hear something like this a little later in the process:

“I was looking at the mobile design and X content (actual valuable content) is pretty far down. Can we just hide Y content (less valuable content, but flashy on desktop or important to a single stakeholder) on mobile so we can get to the important stuff faster?”

This is a classic failure of content hierarchy and prioritization. If a piece of content is not important enough to show a mobile user, you must question its usefulness at all. If it is useful, it should be placed within the proper flow of the site.

Now this isn’t to say that your content can’t and shouldn’t be customized to best fit the users’ device size in order to provide the best user experience. It’s only to say that hiding less desirable content for mobile users is generally a failure in site planning and a crutch for a less than optimal strategy. Either that content is worthwhile or it isn’t – why should it matter which device is being used?

To recap

Every building needs a solid foundation. While content hierarchy and prioritization may not be as flashy or fun as visual design, it’s an integral early step in the design process that can make or break a site. It’s important to both create copy and create a logical structure before starting design, in order to best achieve your new site’s goals.

If you are thinking about planning your site redesign, check our design and development services to get help from our experts and ensure a successful site launch that achieves success.