One of the hot topics in my Twitter feed and my Summify and XYDO digests today has been the Social Triggers article where Derek Halpern ‘debunked’ one of the major axioms of SEO and link building – that ‘Content is King’. The article, which can be read here, is actually really good and doesn’t necessarily push content writers and designers into the ‘Megadrive vs SNES’ camps, but rather suggests that without effective design, no one will trust the content.

In other news, water is wet.

On a more serious note, despite being a writer first and foremost, I can’t help but agree with Mr Halpern on this one, but only so far. On the one hand, you never get a second chance to make a first impression and frankly, no matter how good your content is, you are going to struggle to spread the word about it if the platform you use to deliver this great content looks like it was designed by a ten year old with MS Paint. A boring design will not inspire people to read everything you have to say, it will not stick in someone’s mind enough that they will remember that it and it will not necessarily foster trust in what you have to say. In the fast moving world of the internet, people can make very hasty judgements about who’s worth their time, effort and money and an uninspiring – or worse, broken – design can be the cause of some pretty major issues when it comes to your site’s conversion rate.

There’s no getting away from it – design matters. Content is not the only thing that matters these days, but aesthetics and site functionality aren’t the only things that matter either.

Content Is Still Important

I can’t agree with the Social Triggers article more when it says that your site won’t get far if it looks bad or is too difficult to use. If design didn’t matter, I wouldn’t have spent my hard-earned cash getting myself a subscription to a premium themes site, but by the same token, all style and no substance does a high bounce-rate make.

On the note of the trust that a good design can innately foster, isn’t the same true of content? Would you trust a website with your credit card details if everything on there was written in Yoda-speak? Would you link to a blog post that was riddled with bad spelling, grammar and nothing resembling an original word in there? Hopefully the answer’s no.

So Who IS The King?

There are people in the internet marketing game that will say only one thing matters when it comes to getting your website to perform. Some will consider the design above everything else – throw a couple of words in there somewhere, sure, but a pretty design will get you noticed, right? Others will say all that matters is content – the written word is a very persuasive thing after all. I am not one of them. I believe that in order for a website to actually live up to its potential, all the elements have to be working together. Great content might not get noticed without an engaging design and if there’s nothing beyond the shiny exterior, why would someone come back?

Making everything work together is, to me at least, the most important thing in getting what you want from your website. It’s not about content or design being king, it’s not about either of these being able to function without the other, it’s about making everything work together. In my opinion at least, synergy is king, and I will promote it wherever I can.

What do you think? Are you giving your copywriter his marching papers, are you telling your designer that he can’t have the latest Photoshop version or are you investing in both?