If you are designing a web site for which achievement of high conversion rates is a priority, focus your design efforts on showcasing and highlighting content and copy.
For sites where conversion rates are a priority, primary purpose of design should be to present message in such a way that it delivers maximum impact.
>> So "good" design doesn't matter?
That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that design serves a function. For an entertainment or arts site that primary function may be to present images in an attractive way. That's fine.
But for a site that is created to generate sales, text must come first. Everything...from architecture of site to its design must work towards supporting your message and delivering people to final checkout page.
>> Sounds obvious. Why make point?
I make point because presentation of message is often last thing on minds of web groups.
Web designers are higher on food chain in these groups. All too often writing of message becomes a secondary consideration. "The site will look like this. We'll arrange pages like this. And by way, we need someone to write words."
This attitude of "text comes last" is nonsense and it has been from day internet first went commercial.
Hundreds of millions of visitors have always known that their primary need on arriving at a site is to find key messages. "Am I in right place? Will I find what I want on this site?"
Our visitors know that words are most important element on a web site.
Google knows that words are most important element on a web site. (Unlikely aside from Googlebot: "Cool design. Better rank this page higher.)
The only people who haven't understood this so far are web group managers and web designers.
Even marketing people insist on just dropping in for-print-approved text on their sites, without any thought as to special needs of medium. (Would they create a radio ad simply by using sound track from their TV commercial? I don't think so. Every medium has its own demands when it comes to words, web included.)
>> How to design to showcase message
The first step is to bring writer in at beginning. The designer will find that writer has a number of priorities and needs in mind. He or she might say:
"This is page's primary message. We need people to really get this on first screen."
"We have three separate audience needs to address here. I need these three headings to have equal emphasis, preferably on first screen."
"This message is just first step in converting a visitor to a buyer. We need a strong pathway of three levels before he or she is ready to buy."