8.11.16

Finding the Right Balance: Design, UX and SEO

BY LISA HILLMER-POOLE

Carbon8 is full of experts. From design to development, branding to copywriting, and user experience to search marketing, we’ve got it all.

 

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But what happens when best practices for each of these disciplines create conflict? For example, the most cutting edge design does not necessarily follow basic tenets for successful usability. And well-branded site architecture may run roughshod over our SEO experts’ recommendations for search optimization.

There is no one solution for resolving these conflicts when they arise in the course of website or application design and development. Each project is different, and its challenges must be addressed with a customized approach. However, our teams have identified some must-haves for design, UX and SEO below, to help you on your digital journey.

 

Responsive Web Design

What about the fold?

Really think about what content, messages and calls to action you want “above the fold” on your website’s homepage. There is a limited amount of space, just 1280 x 668 pixels, and the more elements you add, the less impact each one has. Remember, the purpose of your homepage is to quickly confirm to your visitor that he or she is in the right place, and then guide them to the content most relevant to their search.

We definitely do not recommend “false floors”, or section breaks that align with the bottom of your desktop screen. Instead, we design elements that break the plane and indicate to visitors that they should scroll for more content. As more data is being delivered across mobile applications, users have become quite comfortable scrolling to see more.  

Have content.

Website designs built around actual content (even in early draft form), will always be more unique and customized to your brand messaging than designs with lorem ipsum or placeholder copy. If you are not able to provide new content when design is kicked off, just use existing. While you may want to polish it up in the future, or tailor it to new positioning, chances are that your overall message (and the amount of content) will not change enough to outweigh the benefits of designing with actual content.

This is especially important for key pages like About, Services and Solutions Overviews and, of course your home page.

Think about mobile experience.

Mobile responsive web design is about more than just stacking the elements from your desktop layout in a never ending column. It’s about customizing your audience’s experience for a small screen with no rollover states. It’s about really paring down your content and functionality and giving the most important aspects of your site all the real estate. Thoughtful decision making around these considerations will help your site look and function its best on mobile devices.

 

SEO

The algorithm is alive.

Did you know that Google changes its search algorithm around 500–600 times a year? That means SEO experts must constantly change their strategies in order to understand and respond to changes in rankings and organic traffic. While most changes are minor, major algorithmic updates like Google Panda and Google Penguin affect the way we design and develop in significant ways.

Be mobile.

Specifically, mobile friendliness and site speed are becoming must haves for search ranking and organic traffic. This means being cognizant of best practices for mobile functionality when designing responsive sites, and being particularly selective about the imagery, animations and features that need to load on the site.

Words are the key.

Clever headlines and subheads really support design direction and are great for brand messaging, and positioning. But without keywords, they won’t do a lot to help your search rankings. That doesn’t mean seeding a bunch of nonsensical terms just to have them. Instead, try to use keywords in your headlines and page titles that reference the actual content on the web page. This will be helpful for both UX and SEO.

 

UX

What good is a beautiful site if your audience doesn't know how to use it? From incorporating best practices as dictated by the Nielsen Norman Group, to regular usability testing, good sites should function at their peak, and ultimately convert visitors.

It’s the Information Age.

Why do users come to your site? For information. Period. So don’t hide it. Give it to them! Easter eggs and discoverable interactivity are fun design elements, and are entirely appropriate for secondary content, but they don’t escalate your user to a conversion.
Have the information on your site that your users are looking for:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • What is the price?
  • How do I buy it?
  • What is your phone number, physical address, email?

Don’t hide your navigation. 

Display your menu clearly and prominently at the top of your website. Do not use a hamburger menu on the desktop version of your site. Testing has shown that users are at least 39% slower with a hidden navigation. You may use a hamburger menu on the mobile version of your site if it has the word “MENU” next to it. This may, of course, change in the future as users become more savvy to unique design and functionality. However, for the time being, stick with the tried and true navigation style and find other outlets for creative expression in your site design.

Call them to action.

Guide your users towards conversions by telling them exactly what to do next. If users can purchase goods or services right on your site, direct them to the appropriate pages to browse and buy. If your offering has a longer sales cycle, use strong calls to action like “Get a free trial” or “Demo the product now” to move users deeper into your funnel. Make sure your CTAs are at both the top and the bottom of the page, so that users can easily click when they are ready. 

So there you have it. You might want to take another look at your own site and see if it meets our teams’ must-haves for design, SEO and UX. If it doesn’t, give us a call and let’s start something!

Lisa Hillmer-Poole
written by LISA HILLMER-POOLE

Lisa Hillmer-Poole is the Senior Director of Accounts at Carbon8 with more than 18 years of combined agency and in-house marketing experience. Lisa partners with Senior Agency Management, Account Managers and clients to strategize, develop and execute long-range communications and digital marketing plans. Serving as liaison between her team and Development, Design, Search, and Senior Agency Management, Lisa plays a key role in developing the next generation of account management talent at Carbon8.

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