Website Design and SEO

I overheard somebody talking about making sure their website design was “SEO’d” before he started coding it. What exactly does that mean? I thought SEO was all about coding it in a certain way. Meta tags and google analytics.

I think the problem there d_p is you said “creative” writing – frankly web copy, at least if for a business involves very little creativity. It’s more akin to technical writing as it’s information gathering and then presenting that information in a manner people understand. As you said, communication – and clear concise communication, research and facts are, as you said, decidedly left brain.

It’s really two different worlds – sleazing out impersonal blog or writing a real website for a real business; Unfortunately too many businesses think that because you can crap out a personal blog in five minutes, that’s all you need to do to put together a website… It’s the difference between a $20 template by some college student and a $100 template by a professional – it’s the difference between shoehorning your company into a freebie off the shelf blogging system like Wordpress (or worse abuse some outdated shopping cart system) or shitting out a Facebook/MySpace page, and paying $500-$1000 for a custom CMS tailored exactly to your products and your needs.

Unfortunately many clients fail to grasp that simple truth…

As if on top of all the skills we have at design, coding and accessibility we’re miraculously supposed to be experts about their products/company/subject as well!

Though a good test is to ask for ‘Copy’ to put on the page – if they don’t even know what that means, it’s probably not a client you want.

Here you contradict yourself. On one hand you say that content is one of the designer’s duties followed by or at least a marketing team or something.

I don’t know a lot of designers that have a marketing team lined up. At leas I don’t have, but that aside

I think it’s the duty of a client to provide content for a site. I have made many websites for many different companies from many different industries. How good would the content be if I had to provided content for a lawyers website? It’s a process of working together to get the best possible result

The text itself should be written in good quality English (or whatever language you are using) - you shouldn’t worry too much about that as far as SEO goes, although a good webbie will tidy up the text if it is badly written or too long-winded and wordy.

Obviously, make sure you refer to the topic at hand, and don’t assume that people have navigated through the site and will know what it is about. A key area where you can help is in making sure headings are well used to break up text and are appropriate to the contents that follow them.

Ultimately, it depends on the relationship and contract you have with the client. If they are adamant that they are giving you content that is fit for purpose and they don’t want you to do anything with it, that’s their lookout. If they do want you to use your professional skills to polish it up, that’s fine - as long as you make sure they know when it is their responsibility to make a decision or give you an answer. If the project is delayed because of their dithering, then that’s their problem.

Got it in one… Everyone is so hung up on appearance when look at the big major website successes; Google, Amazon, E-Bay, Slashdot – these are not visual tour de-force, they just have content people want!

It’s also why I don’t go to sitepoint’s homepage a whole lot – most of the articles and content mean nothing to me, the graphics take forever to load, the mix of fixed metric fonts on content mean I have to dive for the zoom which is annoying with the fixed width layout, and non-fixed fonts over fixed height backgrounds means broken layout in the header… like the last two links on the menu being under the search bar, the left bar pushing the ‘send me’ link to a newline outside the content box, and the footer overlapping the business section. (and that’s before we talk all the ajax for nothing ******** that takes longer to download and run than it would do do the page refresh without it, the non-semantic markup, the invalid nesting of block level elements inside inline-level, the non-nonsensical heading orders…) 318k in 68 files to deliver 6.7k of plaintext is how you drive people away from a main page, not draw them in. (and how to increase the cost of hosting for no good reason) Seriously, how many of you go through the main page before moving on to the forums?

Hate to break it to you, but graphical eye-candy nonsense does not drive repeat visits — This is a bitter pill for the visually oriented people to swallow, but people do NOT visit websites for the eye candy nonsense - They visit websites for the content – inevitably 99% of your “pretty picture” websites are a miserable **** /FAIL/ at accessibility and usability, meaning it gets in the WAY of the content.

Basically, if users visit your sites for the content, why the hell are so many people putting the content last? That’s putting the cart before the horse.

Doesn’t mean you can’t have the pretty pictures hung on the layout, but it really should be the LAST step in the process, not the first.

I disagree. The designer needs to make a sleek and easy on the eye look so people will visit the website more often. Also the designer needs to make a clear and simple sitemaps. I also figure in Content as a Website Designer’s duties (or at least a marketing team or something). Also the links that go in and out of the website is also part of the process.

Death, we are agree,again.

The problem actually is that clients don’t know the difference. I referenced my print advertising background because the print world suffers from a similar “assumption” problem in which CLIENTS, in a blind effort to cut cost instead of achieve VALUE, will hire a production artist to do all the duties listed above… and thus ( your $20 template or $20 template-like" product). In print the client is assuming that one type of skill encompasses all and the rest is “unnecessary overhead”. I referenced my CREATIVE WRITING degree, because at the start of my career, I went through a trial by fire in a couple of ad ad agencies… in which I leaned that effective copy is not just “comical writing” but CUSTOMER TARGETED wit. So I mentioned it because over time I learned write EFFECTIVE marketing copy, at least on the print side. This why I humbly accept that my SEO skill are still budding. But clients often believe that if you are capable of writing a letter to you girlfriend, you should be able to produce proper marketing copy that’s SE friendly. Same fallacy applies to design and art direction ( which DOES has it’s purpose on the web, like everywhere else), as well as coding ( am sure you have heard a client say: “but my nephew can code on Frontpage and do it for $50” )

The point that I was trying to make that clients strong arm their vendors ( be it the coder or the graphics guy or the SEO fellow and maybe marketing writer) to do the functions they might otherwise admit they are NOT best suited for. To add insult to injury, they will define the pay rate at the lowest, bargain level price for the cheapest of the lowest function performed.

Oh and for the record, it happens in reverse too… Many capable “web designers” ( i.e. coders and developers" end up begin strong armed into designing LOGOS because the client wont have a website without a logo so he figures it should be part of the “web design” service and included in the $400 cost of the site. The client , of course, also expects the logo to be provided to him for his use in business cards, ads, stationary ( i.e. viable for print and other marketing applications) and is ultimately disappointed when his business mark fails to capture the identity of his business as expected, generally looks bad , is unoriginal or is simply not capable of reproducing well in any other media other than the web and only at a certain size). The next time the client has a need , he seeks a “web designer” but this time it’s a graphic designer who’s gone web and demands a lot of unnecessary art elements to be included. He is then “happy with the look” but disappointed with the performance and concludes that “graphic divas” and “coding nerds” are don’t actually KNOW anything and are difficult t work to boot.

It makes sense. I guess you’re right. Normally I advise clients, but they always seem to say they will give me the completed content. In either case, I normally deal with them professionally and try to have a good relationship with all my clients.

I completely agree with everything you have said, completely! But one thing baffles me, how do you write a client’s content properly so it’s search engine optimized? Small decisions seem to take clients a long time to decide, would consulting them on their content not take for for ever? What do you think?

Not me!

Can I say that I am violent agreement with you both? :stuck_out_tongue:

I don’t see those two statements as contradictory. OK, so Howdy’s statement is maybe the wrong way round, the flip-side of the same coin … perhaps it would be more accurate to say that a designer has to make the site easy on the eye so people don’t visit it less often.

In other words, good design is invisible, but bad design stands out a mile. People won’t choose to visit a page more often because it’s beautiful, but if it’s ugly they will sure as heck stay away, even if the content is great.

OH… and here is the hell client joke of the day.

True story, I kid you not. “What if they aren’t looking for my site? How do I get the people looking for , let say toothpaste, to find my site instead?”

This is a nice thread I found while searching for SEO and Design if yall wanna check it out

Why do you say that?

The right brain is responsible for creative traits such as design and music. So if you’re talking about “creative writing” then surely that too is a right brain activity.

Poetry, for example, is definitely a right brain activity rather a left one.

I am with Shadow on this, despite his resentment of designers ;). I think it’s the clients don’t seem to realize what he has said, and it’s not so much the coders or even designers fault. May clients come from the “template” mentality… and i dont mean the cookie cutter website that doesn’t have a creative style.

I mean the fact that a client will say design us a website. make it LOOK this way… but we havent thought about what it will contain ( and in many cases how many PAGES/ sections)… it will have. This bad even if it were a print ad campaign… but with the online media need for SEO … it this lack of foresight is going to be detrimental later on in the development process.

Perhaps what you overheard was simply that the developer was actually THINKING of what the message and intent ( read:content) of the site were.

no matter how good is the site design if its not visible over the internet it’ll remain unseen much…so i deal with SEO and Design at the same time

I’m so with death shadow on this one it HURTS me.

Especially since I AM one of those VISUAL people. As such I will give all of you the key to good design, layout et all… It’s the same as in print. GUIDE THE EYE around toward whats important. Of course this mean if you have nothing to say, nothing will save you… but that’s life.


Scientifically speaking (no pun) language, creative or not, stems from the left side of the brain. The same side that handles logic, math and audio ( MUSIC). The right side is visual, spacial (motor coordination). As my professor once told me: " You might be able to get images in your head, but to communicate it EFFECTIVELY you are going to have to be left brained" :wink:

In college, I doubled majored in graphic design AND creative writing. Even psychologists will tell you they employ DIFFERENT sides of the brain; they are definitely different, distinct and separate disciplines.

I find it interesting that clients go to “web designers” expecting equal amounts of expertise in multiple discipline w/o extra compensation. If it were part of a web designer duties to do marketing ( copy writing for SEO) … I would chose to hide my skills as a designer AND a coder and just say am a “copy writer”. A plain “communications” copywriter earns about as much as a “designer” or “developer” but doesn’t have to worry about SEO, cross browser incompatibilities , typography , color schemes, aesthetic concerns, image purchasing and toning ( not to mention the fact, since you dropped the term “marketing” that web images and styles may also carry over to print campaigns). Remember copy is what you want to about YOUR business, so you are also putting upon the WEB designer that he become knowledgeable in the details of your production, sales, distribution and clientele of your product or service. Essentially have made the Web designer responsible for everything but accounting and snail-mail room. This is not only risky. It’s not fair.

Pretty much has it right, and most GOOD developers extend that separation to markup and CSS; Separation of presentation from content… Though I think most of us are thinking of design as LAYOUT, and not the overall process.

What that means is design also has nothing (or at least as little as possible) to do with your markup – that’s CSS’ job… It’s also why drawing some goof assed pretty picture in a paint program is putting the cart before the horse.

Step one, write your content using proper keywords for the search terms you want, planning to try and get those keywords into proper headings or anchors.

Step two, markup up that content with semantic markup using lists for lists, grammatical paragraphs for actual paragraphs of text (images are not paragraphs, two words is not a paragraph), headings for headings, headings laid out in a logical ‘tree-like’ structure for accessibility reasons (this is where most developers fall flat on their face), lists for lists (of short items, two headings and four paragraphs is NOT a list item), etc, etc… LAYOUT at this point apart from ‘source order’ and ‘css off/no columns’ isn’t even a factor. that’s CSS’ job and you SHOULD have all your semantic markup and content in place BEFORE you even TOUCH ‘screen’ layout. (much less ‘print’ or ‘handheld’)

Step three, bend the markup to your will to create the layout adding as few extra div/span and classes to the markup as possible (and you should only be adding DIV, SPAN or empty sandbags to the markup at this point). This way you aren’t shoehorning your content into a layout that wasn’t designed for it and you already have all your accessibility and SEO addressed by the semantic markup… Use this approach and the “design” has nothing to do with SEO or accessibility. Free graceful degradation CSS off since you started out with CSS off semantic markup - good since search engines can’t “see” your layout since they generally ignore layout type elements (like table, like CSS)

Of course, that leaves the final step, going into your goof assed paint program to make the graphics to hang on the layout.

There’s a reason Google advises testing a page in a flat-view browser like Lynx. I like yellowpipe’s copy for this:

Since that pretty much shows you what the search engine will see when it visits a page – stripping away all the crap that doesn’t do anything… Though I also advise testing images disabled with CSS on in either FF or Opera; all levels of graceful degradation should be checked. (This is why using text-indent:-999em or left:-999em on a image replacement is a miserable /FAIL/)