Designing for Usability: An SEO Essential

March 20, 2008 - Wendy Boswell - Source:

All the bells and whistles in the world might make your site fun and clever, but if the search engines can't find it because of poor design and lack of a good search engine optimization plan, then all efforts are in vain.

Web Site Design Guidelines for a Search-Friendly Site
How do you make your site optimized for search engines? One thing to remember is that you're not only designing to appeal to your visitors, but also to the search engine spiders.

There are a few principles to keep in mind while designing your site to be search engine friendly. These are just very basic principles.
  • Make your text readable. Frantically busy backgrounds that obscure the text are not only hard to read but can make your site look unprofessional. Make your text readable: standard size (Web standard is 12), no silly fonts that have to be painstakingly interpreted, and make sure whatever font color you pick is readable as well (black is the preferred text color).

  • Make your navigation clear. How many sites have you been to that give you the dreaded "page not found" error? This can be avoided by making your site hierarchy clear and consistent. Make sure that your navigation tools are obvious, and don't cloud them up with catchy titles. You'll also want to include a site map or index page for any site that's got more than 10 pages, just for clarity.

  • Images. Even though I have an embarrassingly dorky graphic of a kitten waving and blinking,I don't dare put it on one of my websites, because it has nothing to do with what I'm writing. Every image on your site should be there for a good reason. Make images accessible for those searchers who might have their images turned off due to slow download times and give every image an "alt" label and a corresponding text link. Use graphics that won't give seizures as well; as in, no flashing, throbbing, or strobe lights.

  • Overall Effect. While Flash is a great tool and I myself enjoy tinkering with it, it tends to increase download time. Make sure that whatever technologies you are using to spiff up your pages that they don't drag you down. In addition, be consistent with your site design. Make sure that every page in your site has some element that ties it in with the rest of the site; otherwise visitors can be confused by the conflicting design.

Search Engine Friendly Site Design is User Friendly, Too
The bottom line in designing your site for search engine spiders is to remember that you need to keep the user in mind as well. It's a tricky balance, designing for computer programs AND searchers, but if you keep these general principles in mind you'll have a good start

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