Using Real Content: The Design Phase
Every project we do at Evolving Web has a content import component. Whether the content consists of legacy data sources or a single CSV file with freshly written text, we usually have enough content to consider writing one or several import scripts to import it into Drupal. This makes sense since Drupal is a content management system (CMS) and excells at storing, organizing and displaying lots of different types of content.
Beginning in the planning and strategy phase of a project, even before we begin the design, the content guides the discussion and takes priority. What content needs to be available to users? Where is it coming from? Who needs to see it?
The design phase is always more successful when real content is used.
We recently launched the new Wetstyle website which had a fixed height layout. It was particularly challenging to ensure that all the content would fit into the space provided by the design. For example, the left menu was quite large and we had to adjust the menu interface given the amount of pages appearing in the menu at any given time. In this case, sample content wasn't sufficient to show us the problems with the menu design. We needed to know the amount of content and its structure to test whether the design would work.
Images are content too, and an important part of the planning phase is determining the source of images and whether they need to be manually manipulated. For example, I'm currently working on a design in which white HTML text appears over banner images. For this to work consistenly, the images need to be sufficiently dark. Otherwise, I'll have to add an overlay between the images and the text and the design needs to reflect that.
Another issue that arises often is text length. On the McGill University Health Centre website, there is a "highlights" block on the homepage which shows four news items. While you might assume that a title will always fit on one line, looking at legacy news releases from the MUHC showed us that some titles took up as many as three lines. Given the fixed amount of space available, we had to trim the lengths of these titles before displaying them.