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The content-lacking client: what’s a girl to do?

Many freelancers find ways to vary the kinds of projects they work on, either to keep from getting bored or to further enhance their skill set. In my experience, I’ve found that I enjoy working for different kinds of companies and people, rather than catering to one specific industry.

In the process, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some bizarre clients, with bizarre ideas and bizarre content. Through these clients, I’ve learned that the nature of the content was never the problem, but rather, it was the amount of content I needed to get on a website.

There would often be too much or too little of these bizarre ideas, and it was difficult to find a ‘just-right’ middle ground. As designers, we have our pre-conditioned habits and preferences when it comes to white space vs. noise and clutter. When there is simply too much information, we find ways to simplify complex aspects of a website and prioritize what’s most important for users.

Unfortunately, these strategies don’t work as well when the client doesn’t have enough content. It’s difficult to create an aesthetically pleasing and credible site when it has little to offer. This is because our designs are always based around content. Without content, we have nothing to design and it gets difficult to fill white space in a meaningful way. So what’s a girl to do?

Grab Some Stock Photography

Stock Photography Sites & Resources:

  • Photo Rack
  • Stock.xchng
  • iStock Photo

Getty ImagesOften times, if a client has little written content, they also don’t have imagery to go along with it. We all know that reading a web page full of text is unappealing and even daunting at times. We need to provide readers with visual stopping points in order to maintain their interest, and this is most often done with imagery.

If it’s not in the budget, there are several free stock photography sites you can search through to get high-quality – but generically applicable – photographs for the project. Additionally, many photos only cost a dollar or two; throwing these in as a freebie can be a good way to build a better relationship with your client and keep them coming back for business.

Hire a Copywriter

If you’re not the best copywriter – and neither is your client – don’t be afraid to outsource that part of the job. There are many people who make a living off of simple freelance copywriting, and they can save you and your client a couple of headaches.

First explain to your client why they need to hire a copywriter: if their text is poorly put together, they don’t have enough of it, or their competitors are more influential in their writing. Whatever the problem may be, copywriters can solve a lot of them with some quick prose. They are great with getting the main point across, and do so in a way that will engage readers and hold their attention.

Utilize Bold Design Elements

Large headings and large images attract a lot of attention. Assuming these elements further enhance the brand or identity of the company, it’s not always a bad idea to make these a focal point of the website. They’ll take care of some of the dead space and also emphasize brand recognition for the company.

In the following example, I was working for a client involved in green energy. The image in the center of the page had been used throughout the various presentations they gave, and was easily recognized as a symbol for the company.

Using a large background image can help adjust the amount of white space on a page, but not detract from the important content.

In this scenario, the image becomes the focal point where their mission statement was just a small paragraph. It reinforced the company brand, and also kept the site from looking too bare. In some cases, however, it might be ok to go with a bare look – which brings us to the minimalist approach.

Go With The Minimalist Approach (maybe)

Sofa is a software and interaction design company that has successfully utilized the minimalist approach for their website. I tend to think this approach doesn’t usually work for corporate websites because you don’t see it often, and it’s a tricky technique to use when trying to sell something.


Sofa was able to easily pull off the minimalist approach for their corporate website by spacing their content and using a monochromatic color scheme.

Most often, minimalism is found in portfolio sites to showcase and emphasize the work of the author. If you can make it work, this approach can be exceptionally effective for a client with little content, but it will most likely take quite a bit of finessing.

And then what?

After all of this, if there still isn’t enough content, your client should rethink whether they are assuming too much on their audience’s behalf. Remember that visitors don’t usually know as much as the people behind the company. What may seem obvious to the CEO, may be completely unknown to a potential visitor. It’s important that certain things are spelled out with a little more clarity for first-time visitors.


Have you ever struggled to design a site with little content? What strategies do you have to effectively establish the credibility of a site when it has little information available?

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