Designing a Website with SEO and the User in Mind

The digital landscape is constantly changing and, with it, the algorithms for SEO. There are several nuances that ebb and flow, but a few things will remain relatively the same, and they all revolve around the user experience.

  • Is it fast?
  • Does it fit various devices?
  • Is it easy to use?
  • Does it answer the question?

Design and SEO

Much can be discussed regarding website design, but for this purpose, we are going to dig into the correlation between design and SEO.

As you probably know, Google, the largest search engine in the world, has moved to a mobile first approach to SEO. In other words, it is looking at how well your mobile site performs in determining your ranking. This will be our focus.

Is your site fast?

This question is really important, because Google tests how quickly pages of your site load on mobile devices utilizing various wireless signals such as 3G, 4G and LTE, connections that may not be as fast as your wireless routers at home or work. Speed is not the only factor, but it is one of the largest.

Does your site fit the numerous device widths?

Another critical component of Google’s SEO algorithms is responsive design. If all elements don’t fit within the screen width, leading to horizontal scrolling, Google penalizes your site. That means you will appear lower in search results. Some people will design variations of sites for each size to maintain full control over how it looks, but a more common approach is responsive design. With responsive design, elements rearrange and resize, based on their settings, to fit within the width of any screen. That leads me to the next point.

Is it easy to use?

Many websites used to shrink down to the screen size. I bet you know what I’m talking about. You visit a website on your phone, and you see the whole website just as it looks on the computer but much, much smaller. That is not a responsive or mobile friendly website.

The only time a user should need to pinch and zoom on your website is to look at an interactive map or to view details of an image. There is a warning, though. In both cases, it is very important that no clickable element, such as an interactive map or a large image that opens a lightbox, fills the screen without a means to close it. If it does, it could leave the user stuck and unable to scroll through the page. If a user gets stuck, they may hit the back arrow, reload the page or simply leave your site altogether. Any nuisance to a user can drive them to a competitor.

Another consideration is spacing. Mobile devices can make it tricky to click on links that are too close together. Look at all your links and buttons, making sure they are spaced far enough apart for any size finger that may tap them.

These aren’t the only design issues many sites face, but they are arguably the most common and frustrating.

Does it answer the question?

One of the fastest ways to lose a visitor quickly, aside from a slow site, is to fail to answer their question. In fact, a visitor should be able to tell within seconds that you are going to answer their question. This means the introduction of each page should clearly indicate the topic you are discussing. Never use keywords, meta descriptions and schema markup that is misleading. You may temporarily fool some users and get traffic to your site, but Google will discover the inconsistency and penalize you. Build credibility with search engines and users by being direct and honest.