Only content will pull people in
People come to your website because it holds the promise of relevant content. They might stay longer or feel better because the design helps the content tell its story. They might browse further because the pages load blazingly fast. They might leave quickly because the design lacks or the pages take too long to load. But they came because of the promise of relevant content made by likes of Google and other curators, machine and men.
Thus content has the ability to pull people in and design and code only have the ability to reinforce the contents’ pull or to push people out, if badly executed. With this in mind, it makes a lot of sense to start any web project with the content and only start designing when the content has largely been written.
I’m saying nothing new here. This line of thinking has been promoted by people like Jeffrey Zeldman for years. But when you have to explain a content-driven method to a new client, it really helps to have a strong argument that he or she can relate to.