Is Design an SEO Issue?

“The lion has a bad reputation,”a man from Senegal once told me, “because he eats other animals.” The man’s point was that sometimes bad reputations are deserved.

Web designers, however, have an undeserved bad reputation in some quarters. “You are probably at the mercy of a web designer,” begins a typical comment at a forum I’ve been frequenting recently. “They charge outrageous amounts of money and have a reputation for being less than helpful.”

The thrust of comments like this at that forum — and there are plenty of them — is that content is everything in a successful website, and design is nothing. Web designers, these people claim,  are unscrupulous people who overcharge for their tawdry goods, which do nothing for your website’s success.

This is false. First off, I know and work with web designers of great talent and integrity, so I know that this is just a broad calumny. You’re no more likely to meet an unscrupulous web designer than an unscrupulous member of any other profession. Beyond that, though, your website’s design really can have a positive effect on your search results and overall success.

Here’s why:

  • People like well-designed, attractive sites better than ugly, badly designed ones. Even people who don’t know about design at all typically get a more positive feeling from a good design than from a bad one. They can’t articulate why this is so, but they notice that the site looks less professional and often, less trustworthy. This matters for SEO because it is human beings that give your site links and share information about sites they like.
  • Google likes well-designed, attractive sites better than ugly, badly designed ones. Google’s robots can’t see your pictures or your color scheme. However, they can see your code, your navigational structure, your meta tags, and all sorts of other things that good designs do well and bad designs do badly.  Google even counts load time, another factor considered in good design. Google still says content is king, but they’re not ignoring design.

As for the members of the forum I was telling you about, you will not be surprised to learn that they generally have terrible websites. I wouldn’t go and shop with them, and you wouldn’t either. A very high proportion of posts at this forum say, “I’ve had my site for 10 months and I still have no traffic” or no sales or what have you. They then go on to discuss advertising options.

They should get over their false ideas about web design instead.


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One response to “Is Design an SEO Issue?”

  1. Vermont Web Design Avatar
    Vermont Web Design

    As far as Googlebot goes, the look of the design is irrelevant. A good designer / coder can make a site look pleasing to the eye and more likely to get backlinks. And keep the code ordered as best read by Google. Irrelevant of the visual design.

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