I freak the heck out over website design. Like there’s something so satisfying about landing on a website and realizing – holy cow, this design is incredible.
Maybe it’s because I’m a visual learner – or just a very visual person. But whew! Great website design is just *chef’s kiss*.
So as a creative business owner, I get it. You are ready to have that dream website design that’s so compelling for your ideal clients.
But – please,please,please I beg you. Before you invest in website design, read this post. Because I’m tackling the biggest question when it comes to copywriting and design. Namely – which one comes first!?
What’s the Difference Between Website Copywriting and Website Design?
When it comes to building your website, there are two major components – the design. And the copywriting.
But since they both work together to make up the entire site…. Well, what the heck is the difference?
Oh wow, so glad you asked! Because this is something that I can go on a tangent about for like 45 minutes straight with no preparation.
(I mean… I’m not gonna do that here. But I could.)
And really, I can go on a rampage about this strictly for one specific reason: I ain’t no designer. Like forreal – you do not want to lump me in with those fabulous people.
The difference between copywriting and design is pretty straightforward:
Copywriting: the carefully crafted words on a website, including the order in which they appear.
Design: all of the visual aesthetics and elements of the website, including images and layout.
That’s really the gist of it!
Does a Website Designer Write Your Website?
Generally, the website designer does not write your website. Just like there are methods and principles (that take forever to study and learn) for design, there are methods, principles, and formulas for copywriting.
The likelihood that a web designer is well-versed in both and can do them both equally well is a rare find.
That’s not to say it can’t or doesn’t happen! There are website designers out there who have also put in the work to learn how to write copy. And they may offer that as a service!
But after working with designers for several years, I’ve found that most prefer to outsource and collaborate with a website designer rather than doing the copywriting and design themselves.
Does a Copywriter Design Your Website?
Hahaha! I’m sorry. I’m not laughing at copywriters who also design. I’m just thinking about if I were asked to do someone’s design for them (as a copywriter).
Trust me you don’t want that to happen.
BUT! Just like there are some designers who also do copywriting, there are some copywriters who are magnificent at design, too.
It all comes down to finding the right fit for you!
In my experience, typically copywriters and designers are content to collaborate to bring your entire website together (more on that in a minute).
What Comes First: Website Copywriting or Website Design? (And Why?!)
So that brings us to the big question – what comes for? Website copy or design? And better yet… why!?
I’m in the camp that firmly believes website copywriting and design go together like macaroni and cheese. Like peanut butter and strawberry jelly. Like sunshine and the beach. Like … like…
Okay well, you get what I’m saying.
But while the two go together, we have to get clear on one thing:
Copywriting dictates design.
I am not saying copywriting is better than design. I’m not saying copywriting is more important than design.
I’m saying when it comes to a fully functioning website that works to convert readers into ideal clients, copywriting has to come first.
After all, the words on the page are what your web designer is … well, designing.
The words on the page are what’s communicating (clearly) to your ideal client. Yes, you can showcase a vibe, an aesthetic, or your brand’s personality through design.
But that doesn’t tell them:
- Who you are
- What you do
- Who you serve
- Where you serve them
- And how you serve them
Your website copywriting does all of that.
WHY (ELSE) DOES COPYWRITING NEED TO COME BEFORE DESIGN?
More than the fact that the copy is what your designer is designing… having your copy on hand when you start the design process will streamline the workflow.
Let me put it this way:
What happens if your designer creates the website design layout, and it. Looks. Stunning.
Then you get your copy and start adding it to the layout. But you realize the copy isn’t really fitting the layout. Maybe it’s too smushed on one side. Or maybe it’s overlapping certain images. Or it doesn’t fit into certain boxes.
Now you have to go back to your designer and have them re-design it.
On the flip side, imagine you hand your designer your copy that’s already written. Then they take that copy and create a (just as) stunning website design layout that perfectly fits the words on the page.
Think of it like a wedding dress fitting. Sure, when you first try on a dress, it looks beautiful! But then you try on the wedding dress after it’s been fitted to you, and it creates something even more epic.
Okay…but why couldn’t you just change the words instead of the design?
Ah, I thought you might go there. It’s a valid question!
Why couldn’t you just change the copy so it matches the design? Or write the copy with the design layout first?
Well, the answer is that you technically can.
But do I recommend it? No, not really.
Think about the purpose of your website copywriting. The words on your site are crafted to make you money.
The words are what help you offer your services to your dreamiest clients without coming across as sales-y. And that takes a scientific, carefully curated approach.
Not to mention, as much as I love website design (and as much as I believe the best websites are the ones that prioritize copywriting and design), I have yet to find someone who has said, “I booked your services because I love your website design!”
So since those words are what are communicating your offers clearly, they need to take priority.
What Should You Do Before Investing in a Website Designer?
Okay, so we’ve talked about what should come first – your website copywriting or your design.
So now let’s dig into the things you should do before investing in a designer:
1. Nail Down Your Brand Strategy
First and foremost, you need to nail down your brand strategy. This comes before anything and everything (even copy!) because it’s what guides the rest of the design and copy process.
For example, if you nail down brand strategy and realize your brand is elegant and romantic… then your designer will probably want to steer clear of bright orange or hot pink.
That also means your copywriter will want to stay away from using a crazy BUBBLY and ~eNeRgETic~ brand voice.
To map out your brand strategy, you’ll want to work with a brand strategist. The good news is that any designer who’s worth their weight in gold combines brand strategy and design.
So you’re not just getting a logo. You’re getting a strategy that helps determine what that logo is.
You’re not getting a color palette, you’re getting a strategy that shows you why the designer chose those colors for your brand.
2. Determine Your Brand Messaging + Voice
Okay next up is your brand messaging + voice. Think of this as the brand strategy before design but (copywriting version). < If you’re a Swiftie, then please tell me you got what I was doing.
Your brand messaging and voice is technically a part of your overall brand strategy. But think of your overall brand strategy split into two parts:
There’s overlap between the two, of course. Both need to take into account:
- Mission statement
- Ideal client
But then your visual brand strategy includes things like:
- Color palette
And your voice brand strategy includes things like:
- Voice + personality
- Tone + tone words
- Copy bank
- One liners + headliners
- Words you never use
All of this to say, your brand strategist and designer may help you determine your visual brand strategy.
But your brand voice strategist and copywriter will help you determine what you say and how you say it.
So just like a brand designer who’s worth their weight in gold will include brand strategy in their services, a copywriter who’s worth their weight in gold will include brand messaging + voice discovery.
3. Craft Your Website Copy
With both halves of your brand strategy complete (visual and voice), you can get started crafting your website copy!
That may mean DIYing your copy for the time being, if you need to.
Or it could mean finding a copywriter who’s the right for your brand!
If you’re already investing in website design (and you’re looking for my two cents), then I highly recommend doing it right the first time and getting that website firing on all cylinders.
That means investing in a website copywriter, too, so that your words are designed to sell your services.
How Do Website Copywriters and Designers Work Together?
And if you’re planning on investing in both website design and copywriting, you may be wondering just how copywriters and designers work together.
Basically, it depends on the copywriter and designer. Each may have their own method as to how they like to collaborate.
The key is to find one of each who will collaborate (this is definitely something you can ask on your discovery call with a designer and copywriter!).
They should have no problem walking you through their unique process.
For example, mine often includes hopping on an additional strategy call with the designer so we can plan the website strategy together.
It also means staying in communication with both you and your designer to make sure everyone is in the loop.
And of course, it means opening the door for feedback from your designer when it comes to the copy!
4. Plan Your Website Images and Photos
After you have your brand strategy complete (both the visual and the voice parts!), and while your copywriter works on words that work, you can focus on collecting the website images and photos you want to use.
Your designer can probably help you plan this so that it coincides with your brand strategy. But having a collection of photos that you want to use will help them so much once they start the design work.
5. Design Your Website with Brand Strategy and Copy In Mind
Once you have your brand strategy and your final version of your copywriting in hand, it’s time to hand them off to your designer!
They’ll take both and create a strategic website design that revolves around these words that sell.
And what does that do for your brand? Welllll, lemme tell you!
Your unicorn client (the dreamiest of dreamy ones) lands on your site. They’re immediately captivated by the design because it looks incredible.
So they stay for like a split second and a half longer than they normally would have.
Then they read that first line of copy before they ever have to scroll down the page. And they’re hooked!
So they do start scrolling.
And they’re never let down for a second. Because that captivating design and those compelling words keep their attention and guide them through their website journey until they realize – “Yep. I have to reach out because this is who I want to go with.”
Et voila! A unicorn client lands in your inbox.
What To Do Next for Best Results in a Website That Works For Your Brand:
With allll of this info, what are your next steps? If you’re ready to take your whole brand to the next level (AKA – you’re already well-established in your industry, and you want to set yourself apart from your competitors), then here’s what I suggest:
- Find a website copywriter who also offers brand messaging and voice strategy. Book them.
- Find a brand and website designer who also offers brand strategy. Book them.
- Go through the process with both.
- Go live with your new site.
- Reap the benefits.