Good design vs good SEO

Once upon a time, website designers only had to think about design – was the website functional? Did it meet design principles? Was it user-friendly?

Then, a few years back, someone cottoned on to the fact that it was no good having a pretty website if search engines couldn’t find it. And, lo, Search Engine Optimisation became the flavour of the moment.

And thus began the debate between designers and content providers.

I think we will all admit that both good design and good SEO is pretty important. We have all seen those content-driven websites that hurt our design-sensibilities; and at the same time, we are all probably well aware of gorgeous websites that may as well not exist because they are invisible to search engines.

Most clients want their website to get traffic – so SEO is vital. But, at the same time, they want their customers to hang around their site, so design is also a key element.

But how easy is is to acheive both? Or at least be content that you did the best – SEO or design – for a particular client.

Good news – content providers and designers don’t need to lock horns. Just follow these five steps.

1. Develop the design and the SEO simultaneously.

All keyword phrases need to researched, chosen and integrated into the design in its earliest drafts. From the text, to the tags, to the codes. Otherwise, the designer runs the risk of keywords being developed and added later, and stuffing up the visual appeal. Also, it could mean a change to the directory structure, which bring in a greater chance of errors such as broken links.

2. Remember the adage KISS (keep it simple, stupid)

Now that web design is well and truly established, there is no need to do too much fancy stuff on a web page (unless, of course, you are designing a site for yourself and you want to showcase your talent). People are no longer impressed by Flash and other once-fancy add-ons. In fact, almost the opposite – Flash can take a while to load and be frustrating when you are just looking for some quick information. And the bonus is, simple designs work much better with SEO – and are easy to alter if needed.

3. Sometimes design is king, sometimes SEO.

That’s right, you win some, you lose some. The key is to know which is which.  Let SEO drive the website for removalist company, which relies on Google for business; and feed your artistic passion working on the website for the local interior designer, who relies on referrals, rather than the internet, to keep food on their table.

4. SEO is not the devil

If website designers are honest with themselves, they have always done SEO, in some form or another. It just didn’t have a name. Sure, there are some fly-by-night companies out there that are almost the modern-day equivalent of the snake oil salesman – promising clients top search enginge ranking and acting as if it’s some big secret. It’s not. It’s just a matter of basic knowledge of search engine algorithms and how wesbsites work.

5. Accept that sometimes your ‘perfect’ design will not work with the required SEO content.

And, vice versa. Sometimes design will win out, sometimes SEO.  As long as it all balances out in the end – and the client is aware of and approves the necessary sacrifices – it really isn’t the end of the world.

Good luck.