Web design has come a long way. Designers today would feel nostalgic and perhaps slightly horrified surveying the early days of the web. Before the Graphic User Interface (GUI) came along, we just stuck some HTML on a page and called it a day. Then we started adding some images and tidying things up . The site you’re looking at now is a testimony to how far we’ve come. Interactive and dynamic design is now common, though a return to flat design since the beginning of this decade seeks to prioritize the basic content and functionality of the site over glitz.
In much the same way, the manner in which web users find sites has matured out of its Wild West days. Back in the beginning, anything was fair game. Google took the raw number of links to a site as the main sign of authority and quality, with predictably terrible results. Links were spammed, users were misled, and sketchy “gurus” promised the moon. Now, Google’s algorithms are so advanced. They take into account so many factors. It’s hard to imagine that any one person knows every aspect and how much weight each is given. The user experience is king and designers and search engine optimization (SEO) professionals alike know that they must build for the customer.
Whatever field you are in, you can be assured that a well-designed website will increase brand awareness and create positive customer impressions. Of course, if no one can find your website, it won’t do you much good.
As modern business moves ever closer to being completely digital, a visible presence on search engine pages is only going to become more important. So, as these two business needs converge, we have to consider how important it is to have a well-designed website that takes SEO into consideration for your business. But the beautiful thing about advances in algorithms is that these two goals are one in the same. Good design is optimized for search and search optimization is good design.
The convergence of web design and SEO is most visible in five key areas:
Bounce rate is the bane of any web designer. The same goes for SEO. If visitors are leaving your site after seeing only one page, this could indicate a few different problems. Perhaps your snippets misled the searcher to believe your site focused on something other than it actually does. If your website layout is unclear, perhaps the user couldn’t immediately identify what they wanted and left. A high bounce rate (typically anything over 55%) will damage your SERP standing. This lets you know it’s time for a redesign!
Start by identifying common characteristics of the bouncers. Are they geographically concentrated? When do the majority of bounces occur? Are they all using the same browser? By asking these sorts of questions you can speculate at what is causing the bounces and make design changes that fix it.
Time Spent on the Site:
Good web design begins with a clear idea of its purpose. As a web designer, you have probably designed different sites for every conceivable purpose. Consider eCommerce businesses to promotional sites and everything else imaginable. Maximizing user time on the site is not always the primary goal. So Google looks at this as a metric of… something. Google does not fully disclose how their algorithm works, but time on site and dwell time are certainly considered for search purposes. Web designers would be well advised to follow general best practices. Make the site design as clear and straightforward as possible for users to navigate.
Even beyond SEO, the credibility of your company is influenced by its web design. According to OneDayLabs, three quarters of consumers admit that their view of a company’s credibility is based off the design of its website. Likewise, 94% admit that their first impressions are driven by design. Since Google’s algorithms prioritize user experience, design and SEO goals align!
Backlinks are one area where Google has worked hard to integrate user centered web design with white hat SEO practices. A well designed website is not an island – it is not self-contained. Rather, it needs relevant links to other sites that contain supplementary information. This is good for your readers and the websites you link to. Google has noticed that some SEO companies try to hide backlinks in questionable ways, sticking them in footers, widgets, advertorial videos, and other places not immediately useful to readers. A lot of hard work goes into planning the layout of a blog in such a way as to maximize user experience, so web administrators need to guard against any black hat SEO tactics that would cheapen this.
Web design is empathetic. You take into account your user and their ideal experience as they navigate through the website. Especially with content, information flow and indexing are critical for user experience. Search engine crawlers operate in much the same way. They scan their way through meta tags to understand the layout of your website as they index it.
Designers know the most important information should come first, on the main pages of the site, and Google prioritizes these pages, weighing the information on them more than pages buried deeper in the website. Snippet tags allow designers and content creators to summarize the information on a page in a concise blurb appearing on Google’s results page. By aligning design with SEO and SEO with design, you can create an aesthetically pleasing, useable site that ranks well and gets the attention it deserves.
Page load speed:
Designers know that putting too many images and code-heavy features into a page will drastically slow down page load speeds, making the user experience less enjoyable. Design in any field is always a balance between features and performance, and web design is no exception. Sites that load slowly are penalized. Designers are advised to compress large files and reduce redirects. We can see best practices for user experience again rewarded in the search rankings.
There are countless other examples of where design meets search. As Google and other search engines become more advanced, they will only converge more and more. The user is king and their needs come first. Websites that cater best to users with intuitive, visually appealing design and great content will rise to the top and get the attention they deserve, because it is in searchers best interests. Design your site well, and the Google gods will reward you!
Zack Chambers is a digital marketing consultant specializing in SEO and digital marketing strategy.
**The views & opinions expressed in this guest post are of the guest author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions & views of the Design Roast community as a whole.**