TLDR; it's Content.

A quick disclaimer. This might just be something that I am guilty of, so if you are reading this and already know that content is king, then save yourself a few minutes and move on.

If there is one thing that stops me from creating more websites, it is having something on which to base the design. No words, no pictures - nothing!

When I started looking at Wordpress many years ago, I’d scroll through the many templates until I saw one that I thought was the kind of look that I was aiming for. On activation, the reality of what I had chosen tended to be quite different, and most of the time that was because I had zero, or at least very little, content. Sure, once I started writing articles or content blocks, things started to look a bit better, but it made me realise a few things.

Firstly, if you have an idea for a website, particularly a blog, get some content down first. Write the tag line, a couple of paragraphs in the About section, and a handful of draft blog articles if that’s the direction you’re going down. I’ve never really found that Lorem ipsum cuts the mustard for me. That won’t be true for everyone but for me, I need something a bit more coherent.

Secondly, think about assets. The templates you look through will be using good quality images that draw you in, selling you a lifestyle or a philosophy to aspire to. What images are you going to use? Are you using any? If you are using images for thumbnails or backgrounds, think about how they will fit in a potential design or template. If you’re looking to create a portfolio website, you may be considering images as your primary content.

Third, do you regularly visit websites that look awful, perform badly, and are clunky, but you persevere because the underlying text or imagery is first class? Exactly! Equally, do you ever return to websites that are designed amazingly but the underlying content is poor? Exactly!

Lastly, although I am shamefully bad at following the correct processes, the value of mockups also started to look like something I should seriously do, rather than get over excited and jump straight in to coding or choosing a shiny new template. Use Sketch, use PowerPoint, use Photoshop, use pen and paper, but use something. It’ll save you time, energy and emotional turmoil in the long run.

So there you have it. Forget about CSS, development frameworks, content management systems, code editors, and all the other choices that are easier to indulge in, at the start of your design stage and take a little bit of time to think about your content.