Web Design & Copywriting Should Not Be Separated

Written by Wholegrain Team - April 3, 2014

When you’re planning a new website, there are two fundamental elements to consider: web design and copywriting. Both are creative disciplines, and both require specialist knowledge and expertise in order to maximise their effectiveness.

But all too often, they’re treated as two entirely separate practices. The web designer goes away to design a beautiful, responsive website, and the copywriter trots off to conjure up persuasive, entertaining words. They meet again with their dazzling individual offerings, put them together, and find the end product is, well, a rather mismatched affair.

So what now? Both sides are understandably proud of their hard work, but something has to give. A clash at this stage could lead to the client ending up with potential customers navigating away from their site due to unprofessional design or poor copy. Either way, neither the designer, nor the copywriter, nor the client is satisfied with the outcome.

Which is why, if you want to achieve a killer website, you need to be thinking about web design and copywriting together.

The Strengths & Differences of each Discipline

Take a quick glance at the disciplines of web design and copywriting and, on the surface, they appear to be very different.

Designers are focused on aesthetics. They’re visual creatures who love clean lines, express themselves visually, and obsess over finding the perfect font, image, and colour scheme. To a designer, the overall design of the website is the critical component to its success.

Copywriters are different beasts. They believe in the power of words, have a love of wordplay, and obsess over word choice, syntax, tone and style. Copywriters firmly believe that the words on a website are the most important element. After all, the copy actually sells the product or service on offer, not the design.

Potential for Mismatch

With designers and copywriters each speaking such different languages, the potential for mismatch if both are left to their own devices is unsurprising.

All too often, when both parties return to the table, their respective parts simply don’t fit together very well. The carefully constructed text, written with SEO in mind, may not fit into the design. The result of this could be that some content has to be squeezed into bullet points, when storytelling is by far the most effective option. Or a well-structured three-step process is wedged into a two-step system that comes across as a little pushy. Alternatively, design elements are omitted to fit the text, disrupting the overall aesthetics of the site.

When this happens, friction between the web designer and the copywriter is inevitable. Both believe their own element is the most important. And the truth is both have a point. Design is essential to create the right mood for a website. The function of design is to get the copy read, and bad design can ruin great copy.

On the other hand, the point of copy is to be read. The copy ultimately sells the product or service. There’s little point in a potential customer being attracted to a website because it looks good, only to quickly navigate away when the copy is bland and uninteresting.

In reality, web design and copywriting have an equal importance to the success of a website. They share a common purpose, which is to attract people’s attention, get them excited about the product or service at their focus, and to be memorable. They are inseparable. Two sides of the same coin, if you like.

Ultimately, the user doesn’t really see the design or the copy he simply sees a website. Most people don’t speak design, and although the average user is educated in reading and writing, they’re not there to evaluate the copy, they just want to know whether that product or service will be beneficial to them. Great design and great copy are ultimately transparent. You only notice them if they’re clunky and difficult to use or read.

Working Together

The solution is very simple. From the outset, the web designer and the copywriter need to work together to give the project maximum chance of success. Of course, they may not be working in the same office, but by establishing effective lines of communication and discussing the project at every stage, the website will naturally grow to form a united whole.

Having a big chunk of text may be necessary for SEO purposes if you want the website to have a good, natural authority. But it doesn’t have to sit there in a single unwieldy block of prose. There are plenty of ways to break text up naturally, and if the designer is able to input his ideas from the beginning, the use of design features such as text boxes and smaller sections can accommodate a responsive design that’s easy on the eye. Meanwhile, the copywriter can create text in smaller sections to fit with the design, while also fulfilling SEO requirements.

The web designer and the copywriter are actually kindred, creative spirits with the same aim: to communicate a message effectively. Working together will amplify their abilities and foster an environment for exceptional ideas. By respecting each other’s perspective and working towards a shared goal, they will naturally find a similar tone that benefits the overall theme.

And most importantly, the client ends up with a website where all elements on the page work together to attract, inform, engage and persuade their visitors.

Collaboration and teamwork is the key to success in many creative working relationships.

What are your thoughts on the benefits of working across departments to produce web content? We’d love to hear your thoughts.