Content vs Layout vs Functionality

When creating a brand-new website, what is more important…

CONTENT (i.e. What I have to say)??

or

LAYOUT (i.e. How things are arranged and how they appear)??

or

FUNCTIONALITY (i.e. What the website can do and has to offer)??

You might say, “All of the above!” Realistically, though, one cannot become the next Pulitzer Prize Winner and Web-Design Guru and Web-Programmer Guru all at the same time?! :goof:

I’m sorta learning towards focusing on “Content” first, but “Layout” seems awfully important too.

What do you think?

Debbie

all 3 are equally important to me.

a fail on any of those 3 will most likely drive a casual visitor (one that doesn’t have to use your website) away with little possibility of them returning.

Content is the most important. Without the content your visitors have no reason to visit your site.

The other two are of lesser importance since web browsers have default layout and functionality built in that will allow your visitors to use your pages even you don’t supply your own. Any layout (CSS) and functionality (JavaScript) that you do supply should be there to enhance your visitor’s ability to access your content.

I would give content an even higher importance than felgall, myself. Content is number one, number two, and number three in my book, then the others get letters.

Without content you basically have no web site. Without useful and interesting content people will not come back no matter how well your site works or how pretty it is.

While part of me agrees, being a “newbie” in all 3 areas, I need to focus my efforts a little more than “Be good at everything”. :cool:

Debbie

in that case I would concentrate on content as #1 but the other 2 should be a close 2nd imo for the reasons I posted earlier.

I am leaning towards what you (Ed) and Felgall have said.

It seems to me if you have substance that people will be less finicky about Layout and Functionality - at least in the beginning. (In fact, in a world that lacks so much “substance”, you might just “shock and awe” your visitors with that alone?!) :lol:

I’ve been going in circles trying to learn all of this stuff - just look at my “Newspaper Columns” thread?! But last weekend I started thinking that maybe I should just sit down and really plan out the content of my website first.

You know… What exactly is it that I have to say?! And why should people care?!

As you can see from my original post, I obviously care about all 3 areas (i.e. Content, Layout, and Functionality) and yet it seems to me that content is more important.

At the same time, web surfers are 1,000 pickier than they were in 1996! :eek: Back then, you could get away with <h1>, <h2>, <p>, and <a href=“url”> along with some interesting content, and you were king! (Now, it feels like the average 16 year old kid has a multi-media website out there with a zillion features and razzle-n-dazzle?!) :frowning:

Obviously I’d like a nicely laid out site (e.g. SitePoint) and with useful functionality, but I can only do so much in the beginning as a newbie!

So, Ed and Felgall, do you think you can bring people (and keep them there) with just good ol’ fashioned substance (content)?! :-/

Debbie

if you’re content is not very common on the www then you will be more likely to retain interested visitors if your layout and/or functionality are poor.

But if the content is common place on the www then I for one will leave a poorly laid out or poorly functioning website very quckly and move on to the next link in my search results.

Well, I can’t quote research, but I’ve read many a time that the majority of users don’t care much about layout, and as long as the site is easy to use (and simple HTML can fulfill that) functionality is not a big issue. (The hugely popular—but outstandingly fugly—Craig’s List is often cited as an example.) It’s mainly site owners and designers who get uptight about design and functionality.

And the most often quoted, albeit hackneyed adage is that “content is king”.

“Content” and “functionality” are inextricably linked - and which one is more important will depend on what the purpose of the site is.

A site such as an online store has to have top-notch functionality - if it isn’t easy for people to buy the things they want then it has failed - but other content outside the products/services for sale is not so necessary … how many people ever read Amazon’s ‘Investor Relations’ page, for example?

A site that is giving information has more need for content and less for functionality. For example, a leisure centre website needs to have content about opening times, facilities, prices, membership, location etc … but how much interaction does it need? Nowhere near as much. I’m not saying that that couldn’t make it better, but it isn’t a high priority.

Layout and visual design - definitely less important. There’s a kind of hierarchy of needs - the layout has to be OK enough that it isn’t actually presenting a barrier to people using the site. But if the layout is OK, you need to concentrate on the content/function. People will work through a slightly scrappy design to get to good content/services (not all of them, but some will) … but if you have a beautiful website but that doesn’t actually have any meat behind it, then what? If there’s no content there, if there are no services available, visitors have wasted their time looking at your work of art without actually being able to achieve anything as a result.

Following on from my reply of a few minutes ago, this is one of those things that could be classed as a ‘barrier’. A plain, basic layout is rarely a barrier - it might not look pretty, but everything is there and accessible. But once you start adding ‘clever’ things to it, these can back-fire and make it more difficult for (some) people. If you get a reputation as a site that is difficult to use before you get a reputation for a site that has killer content, that’s going to be a really hard one to turn around - even when you do start to get more and better content on there, you’re going to have turned away too many people who won’t be interested in giving you a second chance. If you can hook them with top-notch content first, you’ve then got more licence to play around with the layout and design, because if they’ve already bought into the site (metaphorically, at least), they’ll forgive you more on the bad design choices.

In a catchy strapline - making no design decision is safer than making a bad design decision.

Yeah, and so I am hoping that solid content combined with basic - yet well-written - HTML & CSS is enough to get me off to a good start.

(The hugely popular—but outstandingly fugly—Craig’s List is often cited as an example.) It’s mainly site owners and designers who get uptight about design and functionality.

Yeah, when you are selling (underage) S-E-X online, it seems like your audience is a little more forgiving about if your HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are well laid - pun intended! - out! :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

And the most often quoted, albeit hackneyed adage is that “content is king”.

True dat!

Debbie

I can not completely agree with you here! I have visited sites where the layout was more than poor, the functionality! I not even have words for it! But the content was very interesting so I kept reading. And i still visit the site at times.

Good points.

Yeah, I am looking to do like an online magazine or newspaper, so for now, I won’t need as much functionality as say Amazon.com.

Layout and visual design - definitely less important. There’s a kind of hierarchy of needs - the layout has to be OK enough that it isn’t actually presenting a barrier to people using the site. But if the layout is OK, you need to concentrate on the content/function. People will work through a slightly scrappy design to get to good content/services (not all of them, but some will) … but if you have a beautiful website but that doesn’t actually have any meat behind it, then what? If there’s no content there, if there are no services available, visitors have wasted their time looking at your work of art without actually being able to achieve anything as a result.

Don’t you think that a good portion of the Internet is filled with “semi-pretty” or “pretty” websites that offer absolutely no substance??

In my opinion and experience, there are a lot of Fortune 500 websites that totally lack Content, and their overuse of “eye candy” even diminishes the little the they have going for them in the Layout and Functionality areas?!

Debbie

That sounds like sage advice!

But once you start adding ‘clever’ things to it, these can back-fire and make it more difficult for (some) people. If you get a reputation as a site that is difficult to use before you get a reputation for a site that has killer content, that’s going to be a really hard one to turn around - even when you do start to get more and better content on there, you’re going to have turned away too many people who won’t be interested in giving you a second chance. If you can hook them with top-notch content first, you’ve then got more licence to play around with the layout and design, because if they’ve already bought into the site (metaphorically, at least), they’ll forgive you more on the bad design choices.

That sounds like more good advice.

In a catchy strapline - making no design decision is safer than making a bad design decision.

That is an interesting point! :scratch:

Debbie

I quite agree. I’m also not sure of the value of those sites to anyone, other than the guy who can make a quick killing designing a site that nobody will look at, so he can make it as shoddy as he wants. Most of the sites that fit that description are nothing more than corporate masturbation, company executives patting each other on the back and saying how wonderful they are, without any real purpose. A handful of investors may be interested in reading it, but the vast majority of people who might actually buy or use the company’s products/services couldn’t give a damn. The website is not contributing to the company’s success - but when you have a big Fortune 500 company, there’s an awful lot goes on that doesn’t contribute to the company’s success, and it’s hard to clamp down on it all!

Just because a big company has their website done in a certain way does not make it good practice!

I suppose what I mean is that plain, unadorned, properly marked up, semantic HTML is inherently accessible and usable. Yes, there is a lot you can do to improve it, but there’s also a lot you can do to make it worse. So unless you’re sure that a design decision is going to be better than a plainer, simpler approach (right down to the level of default unstyled content), it is often not worth taking that risk.

One thing to consider is that the only one of the three you have full control of as the author is the content.

The person reading that content may completely override the layout and functionality you supply and replace it with their own.

w/o content visitor cant find your site ( search engines search through content)/ or have no reason to go to it… let alone stay.

BUT
try making a convoluted lay out, and the best content in the world wont let you KEEP the visitor you get. same goes for functionality ( which I am reading as “usability”)

so imagine a page is a vending machine… which machine would you prefer:

  1. the one that has the candy you love, but the buttons are on the underside of the machine and and after the candy drops, theres no way to open the door to get to it.
  2. the one that is BEAUTIFUL, but only sells 6 year old black licorice, and again that damn door wont let you get your candy after you paid for it.
  3. Or the one whose door opens, and has the candy you want , but again the buttons to get to it are on the UNDERSIDE of the machine and the candy is in beat up wrappers that LOOK like they have already been chewed by someone.

Most people will settle for #3, but also most people will ask why cant I have a vending machine that has the treats I like, with easy to access button, that let me open the door so I can get my appealing and appetizing looking selection.

Originally Posted by DoubleDee View Post
Don’t you think that a good portion of the Internet is filled with “semi-pretty” or “pretty” websites that offer absolutely no substance??

In my opinion and experience, there are a lot of Fortune 500 websites that totally lack Content, and their overuse of “eye candy” even diminishes the little the they have going for them in the Layout and Functionality areas?!

You have to take this with a grain of salt. As a graphic designer I am often approached for print and web projects by clients who have neither a product nor a message. They just want to “make money” or “have a web presence… like their competitors’”… hence the BEST they can do is eyecandy. Hey, at least you looked at the Fortune 500 site… there are some business that have NOTHING… NADA … just a badly compressed spinning logo and a “brick” of content. better to have 1 of 3 that 0 of 3.

I will ad this to the table… fad effects. Slide shows, for example, are a decent way to present and control a group of content images… but I have bene getting request for TEXT only slide shows ( client has good content written, doesn’t have the $$ to pay for images, but still wants a slide show like the other sites… he knows “a little” about coding and thus that it is possible to contain text in a slide show…damn!).

the problem of course is who wasn’t to READ a slide show what if I am looking for a phrase in your content… to keep this short, just because it can be done doesn’t mean it should be done.

Amen to that!

I suppose what I mean is that plain, unadorned, properly marked up, semantic HTML is inherently accessible and usable. Yes, there is a lot you can do to improve it, but there’s also a lot you can do to make it worse. So unless you’re sure that a design decision is going to be better than a plainer, simpler approach (right down to the level of default unstyled content), it is often not worth taking that risk.

I think you have a good point.

Debbie

Another interesting angle.

You make another valid point!

Debbie