Content-driven vs application-driven websites

Nils Fearons

How do you design application/data-driven sites differently from content-driven (blogs, adverts…) sites?

As web designers we may be working on a small content driven website for your local bakery, or a large data driven website selling to consumers for one of the big supermarket chains.

In both instances the goal is to design a website that users will buy into, the difference comes when we break down what the users are looking for.

John Smith may be searching the web for his local bakery because he wants to buy some fresh bread from somewhere close to his home.

Local Bakery informational heavy site
How would you go about designing a bakery website that was informational heavy rather than application driven?

Katie Bloggs may be looking for a supermarket where she can buy her shopping online.

Tesco shopping application
When designing an application to purchase bread would your approach be different?

Both users have a clear definition of what they want from their online experience but how do we design a website that caters for both of their needs?

Designing in general is all about the process of design and the journey we take to achieve the end result. For me this process has four different stages: Discover, Design, Develop and Deliver.

  • Discovery is all about research: what the users of your website are looking for, and what will they expect to find when they visit your website.
  • Once you have this information you can define your users and their objectives, and then decide upon the correct approach to meet these requirements.

So if we use the first two stages of the process correctly when we come to develop the website, we will clearly understand the objectives of the user and the website can be built accordingly.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that there is no formula for building either a content-driven website or a data driven website. The truth of the matter is that you have to understand the user’s requirements and what they are trying to gain from using your website. Design can be used to make the website memorable and unique, but without giving consideration to user experience and how the design will work alongside this, the website will ultimately fail.

Often I see designers and even myself jump straight into Photoshop without getting the foundations right. User experience should be at the heart of all good websites, by using a comprehensive design process we can develop and deliver a result that is both functional and beautiful.