SEO Principles in Web Design: Best Practices & More
Sure you want a website that’s pleasing to the eye and gets people excited. But if you look beyond the aesthetics, you’ll notice functionality plays an even bigger role. And it’s this functionality that’s going to reward you with higher rankings on Google.
This by no means discredits all the hard work you put in. But when you can seamlessly incorporate the major SEO principles into your website design–you’ll find that’s when the real magic happens.
Which is exactly what we’re going to talk about today. But first, let’s get a little more acquainted with web design.
Why is Web Design So Important?
Without great design, users aren’t going to be interested in what you have to say–even if your content is great. That’s just how things work in the digital world and if you play your cards right you could end up seeing some big results.
A well-put-together website speaks volumes about your business and what visitors can expect from your services. Some of the ways that web design can impact your online presence are:
- The way your brand is perceived by visitors, turning them into potential customers
- Your conversion rates and search engine rankings
- Credibility and building customer loyalty
SEO and Web Design: What Your Website Needs
One thing that has really stood out in all my years in the SEO industry is how website design can heavily impact your rankings and SEO. There's actually a good deal of overlap between SEO and website accessibility, and both should be considered when designing your website.
You could spend hours trying to get that perfect color gradient or sift through a billion different templates, but it won’t mean much to Google if you don’t follow the basic guidelines.
There is a long list of do’s and don’ts with regard to SEO but what we’ll look at below is a list of web design and SEO best practices to incorporate into your site’s future design.
There was a time when a website just had to look good on one platform and you could call it a day. Today, websites are optimized to function just as well on smartphones, tablets, laptops, and anything else in between.
And when a website can adapt and respond to the user’s screen, orientation, and platform, it is deemed to be responsive. In fact, there is a lot of emphasis being placed on a website’s mobile version, now more than ever.
This is mainly because Google now uses a “mobile-first” index which means that the mobile version of your webpage will be used for ranking and indexing purposes. In short, your web pages should perform well on mobile if you want Google to crawl and rank them well.
Color and Contrast
Color and contrast work in a simple manner. The more a text stands out against its background, the easier it is to read.
This ensures that your content can be read by those visiting your page, especially users with vision impairments or color blindness. In fact, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG highlight a number of practices for text contrast.
A great website must meet these accessibility guidelines. Tools like Measure can help you check for these contrast ratios.
The “Right” Font Size
When people visit your web page, they need to be able to read your content easily. Smaller font sizes make it hard for users to do so and you should steer clear of their use.
Opt for a good font size–not too big or small–one that’s minimalistic and gets the point across. That’s not to say that you can’t play around with different fonts, but keep their use to a minimum. Loading fewer fonts will help to improve your website’s speed, improve your search rankings, user experience and conversion rate.
Carousels and Sliders
Sliders and carousels were all the rage a long time ago. Today, they only make your website slower and often annoy your users with their placements.
Unless they’re absolutely crucial to the content on your website, I’d give them a miss. Here are some other reasons why you should too:
- They take up space which could otherwise be used for impactful content
- Users often see them as ads and tend to scroll past them
- Not all sliders can be optimized for mobile devices
You want to make it really easy for visitors to navigate through your website. Remember that they clicked on your website for a reason and if they can’t find whatever it is they seek–they’re going to leave.
Navigation is also used for accessing internal links so your most important website pages should be linked correctly. As for the pages that aren’t as important- you can leave them out.
Aggressive pop-ups and ads are a sure-fire way to annoy your users and lose potential clients–especially on mobile phones. Because of their design, these pop-ups cover the entire mobile screen and most users see this as an interruption.
Instead, let your website speak for itself and limit these advertisements for when it’s really necessary. You could end up doing more damage than good if you aren’t careful.
Table of Contents
Having a table of contents on your long form content is more than just making things look neat and organized. It gives your users an overview of what they’re about to read and in most cases–it lets them skip directly to the information they want to see.
The table of contents is generated by heading within each piece of content, so it’s important that your blog posts are structured correctly.
Aside from this, a well-linked ToC lets search engines understand what your content is all about and can be an easy route to additional rankings. You’ll find some great plugins to help you with your table of contents like this one for WordPress.
If your website has infographics, diagrams, or flow charts then you need to make the information accessible for both your viewers and search engines too. You can do this by adding some text on the page either above or below the infographic and with the help of alt text.
The alt text tag describes what the infographic is about to someone who can’t see it. Users with visual impairments rely upon descriptive alternative text or transcript that explains these images. And search engines too can better recognize what the image conveys, leaving you with a higher ranking.
When it comes to website design, consistency is key. All the pages of your website should look as though they belong to the same website. This could be with the help of a uniform theme, color schemes, and even your tone and communication.
Keeping the same layout, functions, and placements throughout your website makes the navigation intuitive and improves the experience your users have.
Easily Clickable Links
As users scroll through your website, it should be easy for them to tell which elements are clickable, and which are not.
When it comes to links, the link text or buttons should not be spaced too closely together or else you’ll be sent to a completely different page than the one you anticipated. Some of the best practices you can follow are:
- Using a different font color for clickable links within text
- Links within the navigation menu don’t need to be underlined
- Be consistent with the appearance of links throughout your website
Smooth Scroll is one of those elements that you should absolutely avoid unless your website really needs it. And you probably won’t.
Simplicity goes a long way when it comes to designing a great website. Scroll hijacking can alter a user’s normal scroll behavior and leave a bad taste in their mouth. Unless you absolutely need it, don’t bother.
When website design follows the right SEO principles, both users and search engines can fully understand what your business has to offer.
I highly recommend these practices to anyone looking to give their audience the seamless user experience. After all, it is a win-win situation for all and you finally get those high Google rankings you’re after.