In the past, search engine optimization (SEO) was a relatively straightforward process that ranked websites mostly based on the content and keywords they contained. That’s no longer the case today, as search engines have gradually evolved over time to become more sensitive to the needs and preferences of human users. Modern search engines are designed to trawl the internet for websites that meet user needs comprehensively in the shortest possible amount of time.
Now that user experience has become a crucial factor for ranking on search engines, a company’s website design and the ways users interact with the site directly affect SEO. Given this, it’s more worthwhile than ever for organizations to invest in quality web design and development. Doing so not only produces websites that look pretty and present information in an organized manner but also ensures that these sites reach more users by ranking highly on search engines.
If your business doesn’t have a dedicated web development team, you can still reap the benefits of good website design. Companies like SearchWorks offer web design services and other complementary digital marketing solutions that can help your company improve its online presence by leaps and bounds. Whether you’re working with an in-house team or an external partner, you’ll definitely want to keep the following principles in mind:
Prioritize Navigability and User-Friendliness
To understand the relationship between web design and SEO, it’s important to understand that search engine bots closely monitor the experiences and preferences of human users. Poorly designed websites with hard-to-read text, multiple pop-ups, and excessively complex layouts are sure to cause users to click away in search of better-presented content. Search engines will then pick up on the fact that visitors are tend to leave these sites and lower these sites’ rankings in response.
Most users will be looking for intuitive, easily navigable websites that enable them to find what they need in just a few clicks. Some helpful tips to improve navigability include:
- Keep your navigation structure simple so users don’t have to dig deep to find the information they’re looking for. Limit the number of headings and items on your main menu to prevent confusion.
- Use simple, familiar terms on your main menu. Avoid technical, complex jargon.
- Keep URLS short, clear, and descriptive to help users recall them later.
- Ensure that your site’s main menu and search bar are accessible on every webpage, so that users can jump to new pages easily if necessary.
Design for Readability
A website’s readability is arguably the aspect of web design that affects SEO rankings most significantly. Online users want accurate, comprehensive information, and they want it delivered to them in a format that’s easy and enjoyable to consume. Thus, if your website provides a pleasing reading experience, users will likely stay on it longer and engage with your content more extensively. Search engines will eventually notice these positive user behaviors and bump your rankings up accordingly.
These tried-and-tested web design tips will make your website easier to read:
- Avoid black and other dark-colored backgrounds. Clean, white backgrounds are generally preferable.
- Use large font sizes and easy-to-read font styles. Most users prefer sans serif fonts.
- Avoid walls of text. Keep sentences and paragraphs short and concise.
- Divide content into headings, subheadings, and bullet points to break it up and make it easier to consume.
- Use infographics, images, and videos where appropriate to keep content interesting.
Aim for the Fastest Possible Loading Speed
Google first announced that it would factor website speed into its calculations of search engine rankings in 2010. In the years since, research has repeatedly shown that users don’t want to wait for sites that are slow to load. Ensuring that your website can load fully in under a second will keep users on-site longer, which will boost your SEO ranking as a result. The following best practices can help you optimize your website’s loading speed:
- Compress your images.
- Minimize redirects and HTTP requests.
- Minify JS and CSS files.
- Employ a caching solution.
- Invest in a higher-performing web hosting solution if your current one doesn’t get you the speeds you want.
Optimize On-Site Images
Including relevant and engaging images on your web pages can enhance user engagement and increase their on-page time. However, as mentioned above, lots of large images can also slow down your website, which will hurt its loading time and also its search engine rankings by extension. Compressing images helps decrease server load and keeps site speed high.
Adding descriptive alt text to each image you use is also helpful for both user experience and SEO. Since search engines are unable to understand pictures, they use alt text to index images for specific keywords. Alt text is also displayed on your website when images fail to load for whatever reason. Lastly, visually impaired users can use screen readers to read alt text and get a sense of what the images on your site contain.
In summary, well-designed websites will generally rank well on search engines, while badly designed ones are unlikely to rank at all. It’s thus in businesses’ best interest to invest in user-friendly, SEO-focused web design from the jump. Doing so will ultimately increase traffic on your website, earn you the good opinion of users, and eventually improve your company’s bottom line.