What are the best practices for optimized website design and user experience? How can you design an attractive, user-friendly website that maximizes your ability to be found in the Search Engine Results Pages and drives conversions? Read our expert tips for optimized design and user experience, compelling aesthetic design, website architecture, usability and more.
I cannot count the number of times a client has said those exact words to me. Truth be told, if you want to maintain a long term presence online, it is absolutely essential that SEO be an ongoing process of adding new, search engine friendly content. Here are just a few of the many reasons why SEO should never remain stagnant.
SEO is a very dynamic industry; hence what was most valued as important in the eyes of the search engines one year ago, is no longer as important today. Google Page Rank, for example, is still deemed to be an integral part of a site’s natural positioning, however, is no longer the most mission critical factor. Today, the implementation of a Link Building Strategy is considered to be crucial in improving natural search. The engines (especially Google) are heavily weighing their organic results on how many relevant links a site has, as well as the manner in which these links are obtained.
Your competition is likely doing everything they can to surpass you online. Think of it this way: if you’ve ever hired (or even thought about hiring) an SEO agency to optimize your site, you are in a competitive industry and should deduce that your competition is doing the same. Your web site should be viewed as a work in progress; the more new and optimized content your site has, the more information the search engine spiders have to crawl. Think Blogs, Social Media, etc.
The search engines, specifically Google, Yahoo and MSN, like it when you play by the rules. Sure, there are a variety of ways to trick or fool the engines to gain better rankings in the short term. Rest assured, these tactics will catch up with you and could eventually lead to your site getting banned from the engines. We, at MoreVisibility, always adhere to a best practices approach, follow the rules set forth by each engine and advise our clients’ to do the same.
Optimized, or search engine-friendly, Design is a growing topic for us here at MoreVisibility, and I am glad to have the chance to blog on behalf of our Optimized Design Department! Our crack team of designers and programmers has been assembled to optimize and re-design clients’ sites for greater crawlability, relevance, and of course, beautiful design and functionality. As you would expect there are many aspects of a site that need to be modified to make it SEO friendly, but one of the most critical and difficult components is implementing stylesheets, or CSS.
CSS stands for cascading stylesheets, one of the prettiest names I think that the web development community has ever come up with. CSS was standardized by the W3C in the mid-nineties, but it wasn’t until the current decade that all browsers supported the platform. In recent years, a growing numbers of forward-thinking web developers have been using CSS exclusively to format their sites, with very efficient and beautiful results.
So what does CSS do? CSS is a stylesheet primarily, so as you can imagine, you can use it to format paragraph text, headers, sub-texts, etc. The stylesheet is referenced in each html tag, <p> for paragraph, <h1> for header, so that when you change an element of your <p> tag in the CSS, your text will change throughout the entire site. Online projects have been set up to showcase just how much you can change the look of a site, by simply formatting the stylesheet. CSS Zen Garden (http://www.csszengarden.com/) is one such project, where designers are challenged to just change the .css file, not the html, with amazing results.
But wait, there’s more! In addition to providing you with a consistent and energy-saving website, CSS can be used to format the entire layout of your site, from header images to navigation bars, and from separating columns to making input forms. Through the magic of a <div> tag (division- a catchall “box” that you can resize, stack, nest, and generally manipulate), your site can be built- out entirely using CSS, giving you clean code, table-free layout, and one place to reference your formatting. The amount of code on each page is cut drastically, and gives you a site that search engine spiders find a lot more crawlable.
So why aren’t we all swimming in CSS accessibility? Developers have been slow to adopt CSS, out of comfort with their old methods and the different interpretations with which the browsers read stylesheets. These issues can be remedied by a developer with plenty of CSS experience, who can create a site that looks great, is search-engine friendly by nature, and maintains a consistent look and feel on every browser and every system.
But if you cannot spring for an entire re-design, try implementing CSS for just your fonts, headers and links. You will soon fall in love with its ease and accessibility!
To check out the range of CSS-design possibilities, see CSS Remix (http://www.cssremix.com/), a showcase of the best and most beautiful designs out there. For fun, click on one of the featured sites, and in your browser window, go to View>Source, and marvel at the scarcity of markup! It’s magic! And the engines will love you too!
Usability of your website is very crucial to its success and often sites make mistakes which have a negative impact on the website. I have comprised a list of top mistakes made today when it comes to usability.
1. Poor categorization and labeling of information
Issues with site structure and the naming system of the main categories are among the most damaging problems for a website. Too often websites reflect the internal structure and labels used by the organization, rather than those of their customers. This can cause the customer to become confused and frustrated, ultimately leaving the site.
2. Poor navigation
Even if a site is well organized and information is in clearly labeled categories, the design of the navigation elements can undo all the good work. Developing a navigation which is easy to use and clearly showcases its sections is key.
3. Cluttered page layout
Many pages are difficult for users to scan because the design is cluttered. Information isn’t aligned and there is too much unused space. The most important information on a page isn’t clear at a glance. Few pages make effective use of section headlines and sub headlines, so that it is obvious how the information on a page is structured.