While designers’ understanding of SEO needs has come a long way in the last few years, there are still at least three areas where SEO’s need to coach designers and help them continue to integrate SEO into their work.
If my experience holds true within the web design and publishing industry, the integration of SEO and design has come a long way in the last few years. It’s even tempting to say that the integration of SEO and design is as good as it can possibly be. I see that many sites where very good design is combined with a reasonable emphasis on SEO. Publishing platforms like the ubiquitous WordPress are both SEO- and designer-friendly.
Where we are at: an overview
Designers’ love of Flash has been reduced, not only by its SEO limitations but other factors like continuing issues with browser compatibility and even Apple’s avowed hatred of Flash. Google’s algorithm has taken steps forward in determining the quality of a site. Changes at Google have comprised an onslaught against low quality content, low quality backlinks, black hat SEO practices and poorly designed sites that no one likes. It’s become more important than ever to have a pleasing design that people will stay with as they browse pages of a site and this has helped designers and SEOS get along.
There are still a number of areas for growth and improvement in the integration of SEO and design of websites. Here’s a look.
Three areas where designers still need SEO help
Flashy dynamics and graphics have not truly been replaced by anything better. The best compromise I have seen is JQuery which allows designers to create flashy rollout menus. It’s a compromise, though, for both designers and SEOs. JQuery links are not truly as optimized for search as an on-page navigation link and JQuery is just not as cool as Flash, designers will argue. You can let your designers use cute menu tricks but you need to make sure that pages are linked in a way that is visible to crawlers and that mainly means on page links, preferably within the content.
Designers still tend toward heavy designs
Page load time has been one of the best kept secrets in changes at Google in the past few years, if you ask me (overshadowed by Panda and Penguin, rightly). Load time needs to get faster all the time. This is another area where designers need some advice on keeping images web friendly and finding the right balance between appealing design and keeping bounce rates down from users frustrated by your site loading too slowly. Use of heavy graphics, too much advertising, and too many calls to too many files are all bad for optimization.
Infographics are where SEO and designers meet. Although Google is working on an answer to all those infographic links, these remain a viable way to attract links to your site. This is an ideal area where designers and SEOs have reason to get excited. Designers have a chance to shine and broadcast their work to the web. But you have to have strong content. Because of their ubiquity infographics are yawn-inducing unless they tell a compelling story. And that’s where a creative SEO person is needed to truly turn an infographic into link bait.
The Integration will never be complete
SEO people are still all about content and designer are all about design. I’m probably one of the worst teasers in the industry when I glibly say in design meetings that designers and design-minded people like ‘a lot of pretty pictures.’ But it’s still true; that’s why they are designers. It’s also why they need SEO writers, link builders and consultants. (On the other hand, SEO people make crappy sites when they are not asking designers for help.) The fact is that designers need to become better at what they do in many other areas and SEO is increasingly complex, too.
The integration of SEO and design is better than it was, but the online world and the real world it is changing dramatically, more complex than ever and becoming more complex every day.
Article written by Jim Huinink, an SEO consultant with the Toronto usability firm, Interpixdesign.com, specializing in design for smartphones.