What web designers need to know about SEO

Web designers and SEOs don’t always get along. While one side is seen as more creative, the other is more analytical. Their seemingly conflicting goals can often be at odds. But it’s important that we reframe this vital interaction.
Web designers and SEOs are closer than you might think. And the thing that unites them is that they both want the website they are building to be a success. When both camps listen and act on the information provided, website experiences are more accessible, cohesive and – ultimately – more successful.
Web designers often have the first say in how a website is built and structured. They decide the hierarchy of information. They decide how users will interact with the content. They decide what will be represented by text, image or video. 
Rather than sending the SEOs in after the website is completed, it’s far easier to get everyone on the same page from the start. In this article, we’ll start with a few things that web designers need to know about SEO. And look out for a future article on what SEOs need to know about web design.

Google indexes mobile sites first

The mobile website is now just as important – if not more important – than your desktop site. Building from a mobile-first perspective can help to secure SEO success. Websites need to be lean and quick to load on any platform. They need to be able to load on an out-of-date iPhone while the user is stuck on a train with intermittent phone signal or unreliable WiFi.
SEOs might be constantly squawking about mobile first indexing like a parrot on a perch, but it’s for a very good reason. Once a website is built, there’s very little an SEO can do about the design and functionality. This is why they need it to be built with search engines in mind. 

Long form content is more successful

So you’ve created the blog layout, popped in 300 words of Lorem Ipsum text and you think it looks pretty darn good. But what if that holding text were over 2000 words long? Would the website design help to guide the reader through this experience?
Long form content is incredibly important for SEO, but only if people actually stick around on the page to read it. If the user experience makes it difficult to pay attention for longer than 500 words, then SEOs are going to struggle. While you might be designing a business website, you also need to pay close attention to the blog to make sure it can play host to a variety of content. Look at the Moz guide to SEO to see examples of how longform content can be structured with the user in mind. 

Search intent is very important

When it comes to structuring information on a page, search intent should factor pretty high on your list of considerations. Search intent is all about what people expect to find when they search for certain terms. 
If I go to Google and search for “SEO agency near me” I want to see a list of SEO agencies and their contact details. When I click through to their website, I want to see what services they offer and how to contact them.
But if I search for “what is SEO?” I want to find a comprehensive resource that will tell me everything I need to know on the topic, and links to further reading. I don’t want to see contact details for local agencies, because I’m looking for something very different.
These results don’t happen by accident. They show up in search results this way because web designers use Schema markup to highlight the most relevant information. And all of this needs to happen with the end user in mind. 

Headings still matter

Headings are more than just a design choice. They structure the information in the page and create a hierarchy. Websites need to be designed so that the H1 tag appears once and at the top of the page, and then subsequent information can be found below this.
While headings might not grip the the SEO community as they once did, they’re still very important for the user experience. By structuring the content in a coherent and cohesive way, users are guided through the information with ease.

Images need special attention

Images are no doubt important for the overall website experience. But they are also become especially important for optimisation and accessibility. Images need to be optimised for load speed while also helping to make the website more accessible.
Accessibility is set to be a huge part of web design in 2020 and beyond. Things like image descriptions can help the visually impaired to understand what is happening on a page.