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Please comment below with your thoughts. I'm not so old a dog that I can't learn a few new tricks!

Filed under: Audience, Brochure Copy, Copywriting, Web Copy, ,


  1. Chris Allison wrote on

    I agree. Design is a foundation. Copy is content that you build on top of the foundation, at least that’s how I see it.

  2. Angus wrote on

    Interesting Glenn. I’d say it depends a lot on the product. If you’re selling cables or fishing rods, your design doesn’t need to be fancy, but you need to have decent copy or at least well-optimised copy.

    Then again, “design” with a website encompasses a lot more than the visual. In general I’d say the #1 thing to get right in a site is UI design (no use having gorgeous design OR brilliant copy if they can’t find the buy button), followed by copy, followed by visuals/branding…but with some products #2 and #3 can be reversed. (The nicest sites are the ones where you can’t tell where one of these leaves off and the next begins.)

    Another thing to bear in mind is that if you’re broke you can build a reasonable-*looking* site nowadays using a template, but content will always have to be made to order. (I hope!)

  3. Angie Haggstrom wrote on

    I certainly agree with Angus. Usability and content are tied for first in my opinion. Without decent content, no one will find you or be interested in buying. At the same time, if you can’t make money from the site, the site isn’t going to do you much good.

    A few sites I read on a daily basis have downright terrible designs. They are overloaded with links, adds and buttons. In addition to this, I only have my browser open half way most of the time and it makes it difficult to find the actual post.

    Once I found the subscribe button, I was able to avoid the site and enjoy the content. There may be something to that as well.

  4. Carson wrote on

    Good content can’t overcome horrific design, but it can work in virtually any environment that retains basic usability.

    Your point is spot-on, though. Miserable design reduces the value of content wildly. I often find sites that would do better with nothing but blank white pages and text than with what they have.

    I have an affiliate marketing project where I’m using an incredibly simple landing page as a pre-sell. It’s basically a simple letter format with about five paragraphs of text.

    That little page has outperformed five previous incarnations by a 2:1 margin. Earlier versions were pretty, well-designed, etc. I found that in this particular case, “words alone” were the best way to get the job done.

    Guess my point is that “good design” doesn’t even need to be “wow, look at that” design. It’s all about usability and making that first impression you mention.

    That’s one reason why I’ll chime in with my 2 cents worth when writing for clients who are using material in a lousy environment. It’s also why I think every writer should make friends with a few A++ design people.

    Good post!

  5. Bo Janiga wrote on

    By saying “design is wrong” I would assume that the design will not work for the intended audience. This is different from the design being beautiful, funky, appealing, attractive etc.
    Some brands absolutely purposefully present themselves as “cheap” ones and their design will reflect that – and it works!

    You can take a horse to water…
    I agree that if the design is WRONG FOR THE INTENDED AUDIENCE (sorry for the uppercase, I didn’t mean to yell here, just highlighting), then even if we get a crowd of people coming to our site from search engines, they will not be willing to transact. The next-step conversion of that landing page will be very low.

    The good news is that, in most cases, the visual impression of a page can be improved very quickly and easily. Try some of these: nice headline image, cool edges around your main content areas, slick buttons.

    The tricky bit is how to discover what would be good design for our intended audience. Luckily, A/B and multivariate testing are online marketer’s best friends.

  6. Glenn (Owner) wrote on

    Thanks Bo. Definitely what I meant by “wrong”. You hit the nail on the head!

  7. PrepaidPlans wrote on

    Agree and don’t agree. Sometimes a design can be just great but the navigation lets you down and you get frustrated and leave. They could have spent thousands on it. Personally I think the total experience has to be right and with that experience you need to get enough of it right so that the customer can get to where they need to. Enough of the copy, enough of the design and enough of the service.

    As an example. I have been a customer for several years. Recently had a PC die and email access was limited to Gmail. Renewal notice from Bingle arrives and I needed to login and pay. Bingle would only send password resets to original email address, that I couldn’t access. Tried to call them and they don’t take calls. Tried to email and the submit button was missing (or i just couldn’t find it).

    I was trapped and annoyed. I found a new insurer as I didn’t want to be left uninsured. Their renewal notice read well. The product was priced right. The website looked great but i could solve my login issue so I left.

  8. Glenn Murray wrote on

    Yep, I’m with you there. Bad usability is one of my pet peeves. Of course, it’s really hard to get right. For some sites we do at Silver Pistol (, the usability / wireframing takes near as long as the design!

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