One of the big dilemmas companies sometimes face when creating a new website is whether to be led by the design of the site, the content or the search engine optimisation. Certainly, high rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs) depend on more than just a beautifully designed website and on-page optimisation as Google also takes its signals from social mentions, quality links, citations, and many other factors.
That being said, for a truly phenomenal user experience (and that’s what every website should offer) design, content and SEO should all be developed in partnership. After all, what is the point of having a beautiful website that no-one can find or an easily found website that no-one wants to read because of the terrible design?
Great website design can help people to navigate their way through your content, drawing them in and encouraging them to stay on the site. As well as providing a pleasurable user experience, it’s likely to encourage social shares, citations, keep your bounce rate low and your average time spent on site high – all positive indicators to Google that your site is worth staying on and provides customer-focused content.
Helping Google understand images and graphics
People take just three to five seconds to decide to stay on a website – this is known as the ‘blink test’ – so it’s important to make a strong and positive visual impact. As a result, websites often use large images and other graphic elements to grab attention. Unfortunately, Google does not see images when it indexes content.
When designers, copywriters and SEO experts work together to understand what they want the site to achieve, they can find some fantastically creative solutions to ensure that customers are given a pleasing aesthetic and Google is given the content it needs to make sense of the site.
A good web designer will use a combination of web fonts, CSS and HTML, for example, to make sure that images are crawlable. Your design might also include solutions such as rollover text on images or an expandable div, i.e. a section, division or box of the web page, to show images initially and then some supporting text content.
Using hotspots to their full potential
Well-designed websites are those that maximise the potential of on-screen hotspots, i.e. the places where people tend to look first. Just like when we look at the front cover of a magazine, people usually look to the masthead/header of a website first as they expect to see the site’s identity there. Within the masthead, a large billboard image is great for communicating key products or services. This is why lots of websites use large carousel or slider images to promote the website’s most important messages or pages.
When the essential elements of each web page sit above the fold, i.e. above the point where people would need to scroll down the page on a desktop, they are more likely to be read and for people to act on them.
This is why you will usually see a navigation menu running horizontally across the top of the page and prime hotspots forming the shape of a capital F or capital E in the page’s design because the eye is drawn across the top of the website, down the left hand side, across the middle near the page fold and then down the left again, and sometimes across the footer.
When people can see what they’re looking for at a glance, they are more likely to read deeper into your website, again communicating important signals about the content to Google.
Calls to action
Even a compelling call to action can get lost of a web page if the design is weak. The colour and position of a call to action, for example, can influence whether people notice it and click on it. Again, designers understand where the prime hotspots are on a web page and will position your calls to action accordingly.
Clickthroughs can encourage people to sign up to your mailing list, make a purchase or stay on the site to read a blog article. Again, the more someone interacts with the website, the stronger the more Google perceives your site as providing relevant content for specific searches.
Clear and strategically positioned trust signals are an important part of successful web design. If people can see reviews at a glance, ways of contacting you or payment assurance, these can all help remove the fear of buying from you and provide invaluable social proof.
Your web design might include logos of any professional bodies to which you belong, a ‘Featured in’ list of publications in which your business has appeared, a money-back guarantee or different methods of contacting you. The idea is to show your customers that all the barriers to buying from you have been removed already.
Part of providing a phenomenal user experience is making it easy for people to share what they’ve found with others. A Facebook like button, Twitter follow button or Google +1 icon can all give subtle messages that encourage social sharing.
Other design elements
Above all, the design of your website should make it easy to scan the content and identify the most important elements and information on the page.
It’s important that your website design is responsive so that people get a comparable user experience whether they’re accessing your site by desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile phone. In fact, from 21st April 2015, having a mobile-friendly site will be more important than ever, as Google will prioritise mobile-friendly websites on mobile SERPs.
Your web design should also load quickly. Page speed is another ranking factor that could lose you traffic via Google and cause you to have a high bounce rate away from your site. Therefore, the design needs to work well and load quickly.
Do you want to be found by the very people looking for your services?
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These SEO basics will help the search engines to index your website and users to find what they’re looking for.
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