Articles in The 'Optimized Website Design & UX' Tag


February 12 2008

Design That Works With Your Website Objectives

by Jordan Sandford

I would like to state the purpose of this post at the beginning: to urge people to start thinking more objectively and less emotionally about designing a website.

Some readers may find this information a good review of business logic and others may welcome my post as something valuable to start thinking about.

I often hear people use the words, ‘I like’ when speaking about a website. One of my design instructors at Florida Atlantic University would stop us in the middle of our sentences if we said ‘I like.’ We would have sessions in which we had to defend our work or others’ work, and using ‘I like’ just wouldn’t cut it for my instructor. For a few weeks, I would struggle with this, asking myself, ‘what’s wrong with having an opinion?’ I was so annoyed, as were most of my classmates, but I thought that I must not be seeing something.

So, what was my instructor’s objective? The idea is that design decisions should be based on as much research and evidence as can be obtained. Designing around your own emotions and preconceived ideas can misdirect and harm your efforts and negatively affect ROI. I finally understood.

Here’s a common scenario:
Client: Our website’s banner should be blue.
Design team: Why should it be blue?

Client: I like blue.
Design team: Why do you like blue?

Client: Blue has a sense of calmness.
Design team: (Tries to convince client that they might need to spend more time in researching what would work best for the client’s website.)

Client: (Client downplays suggestions in hopes of launching the site as soon as possible.)
Design team: OK. We are suggesting a side navigation for all your internal pages.

Client: We were thinking to use a top navigation with light text on a dark background (reverse type).
Design team: OK. Why is that?

Client: We surfed a few sites previously and were amazed at how soothing reverse type can make a web site. (Client provides a few reference sites.)
Design team: Yes, those sites do have a soothing sense about them. We believe these sites’ content makes them more soothing, rather than the reverse type.

Client: OK, well we like how the site’s use of reverse type adds to its attractiveness.

The client knew what their goals were for their site and may have even brought in market research to help define these goals, but they didn’t know quite how to get there.

Here’s another example: A site’s goal is to be a resource for teachers wanting to teach basic color theory to children.

Because the site is about color, there’s color everywhere, but it’s used ineffectively. The site includes the use of colors that clash when overlapped. Being primarily an education site, the educator (parent or otherwise) would probably be the first demographic that should be targeted by the design. However, what could easily end up happening is that these educators only remain on the site for a short period of time and quickly return to their Google search results page. Their use of color didn’t work for the site’s objectives.

Moral: After knowing what your site objectives are, use scientific research to attain your objectives. The nerds have done the testing for you, and you can use their results to employ efficient methods to realize your goals. It’s worth the effort.

January 30 2008

My site is 100% optimized. Can I stop working on SEO?

by Marni Weinberg

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.

October 25 2007

Search-Friendly Design: The Magic of Stylesheets

by Jessica Hammer

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!

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