The Importance Of UX In Design/SEO
The Importance Of UX In Design/SEO
Search engine algorithms have become very sophisticated in recent years, largely thanks to the integration of machine learning. Machine learning helps the algorithm evaluate a website more like a human does — looking at the overall page layout, identifying visual content, assessing the readability of a page, and so on. It can also be used to analyse various behavioural metrics which determine how much a user enjoys a website.
The integration of machine learning is a significant step forward in the world of SEO, as search engines will be able to more easily evaluate the user experience (UX) of a website. There is some indication that search engines are already using UX as a ranking factor, with websites that offer a poor user experience finding it more difficult to rank well.
What is UX?
User Experience (UX) refers to the experience that an individual has when using a website. This includes how they perceive and respond to the website’s appearance, organisation, usability, and efficiency.
UX is completely subjective, as one person can have a vastly different website experience compared to another person. It can also change over time, as a person becomes more familiar with a website and learns how to use it.
The primary goal of a UX designeris learn how people use and respond to a website, then make adjustments to improve the overall user experience. They will often audit websites to identify common UX mistakes and conduct in-person tests to determine which parts of a website users enjoy or dislike.
UX designers pay particularly close attention to:
- The website’s overall structure
- Location of important functionality (search boxes, menus)
- The quality of the menus (how easy they are to find, understand, and use)
- How content is structured
- The flow of the website
- How users interact with the website
- How colours and fonts are used, and much more.
What does the focus on UX mean for design and SEO?
So, how does an SEO specialist or designer prepare for the increasing importance of user experience?
SEO specialists will need to learn UX principles
Google has always been focussed on delivering the best possible experience for users. This is the main driver of their new focus on UX and desire to use it as a search engine ranking factor. SEO specialists will have to follow Google’s lead and spend time learning UX design principles. This may be a significant change for many SEO specialists who are more used to dealing with keywords more than the preferences of human users.
Designers will need a stronger UX focus
Although many designers already have some UX training and an intuition for making websites that people enjoy using — they may have to take it up a level. This is particularly true when they are planning menu systems and other important elements of the user interface.
UX specialists must also change their approach
Making UX an important ranking factor for SEO will also change the way that UX designers work. Traditionally, UX designers followed a linear approach, based off a user reaching the home page of a website. The UX designer would make changes based on how the user interacted with the home page and navigated through the site from this starting point.
Unfortunately, this is not how most users reach a website via a search engine. For most websites, about 50% of visitors will enter the website via an internal page. They won’t see the home page unless they manually navigate to it. This means that these internal pages must be designed to be as satisfying for the user as the home page is — which will require a re-focus for many UX experts.
What can you focus on now?
While it is unknown which UX concepts Google might use as ranking factors, there are some areas which are guaranteed to have an impact. SEO specialists can focus on these areas today.
Most SEO specialists know how to use semantic HTML and keyword research to create informative headings for search engines. The good news is that creating semantic HTML remains a very effective UX strategy.
Make sure all pages use a single H1 element, then H2, H3, H4, and so on for subsequent headings (with appropriate visual formatting). Place the H1 heading at the top of the page, with relevant keywords at the beginning. By creating a logical hierarchy of headings, you can help both your human users and search engines algorithms.
Most SEO specialists are aware that Google uses site speed as a significant ranking factor. It is very likely that site speed will become an even larger factor in future years as it also affects UX.
Site structure and navigation
This is one area where many modern websites continue to fail. They often use confusing or frustrating site structures and navigation systems that annoy their end users. Previously, this might have resulted in poor conversions and customer complaints. Now, it may also result in poor search engine rankings.
One of the most common mistakes made by designers is hiding the main navigation system and replacing it with the word an icon or the word ‘Menu’. This is often done to make the website look cleaner. Unfortunately, hiding important navigational items from the user just makes the website frustrating to use.
Avoid hiding your navigational elements unless you absolutely must. You should also using fancy pop-ups, providing far too many menu options, or having a complex menu structure. Simplify as much as possible and make the site structure logical for the average human user.
The mobile experience
Since Google released its first mobile friendly update in 2015, SEO specialists and designers have been scrambling to make their websites work well on mobile devices. Mobile friendliness is now one of the major ranking factors for websites and can dramatically affect how well a site performs.
This trend will only increase as UX becomes a more powerful ranking factor. You must ensure that all websites have an easy-to-use interface that is a pleasure to use. Everything from above-the-fold content to navigation systems and button sizes must be considered when designing for mobile in the future as it affects the user experience.
The focus on UX will good for everyone
The plus side of the increasing focus on UX is that SEO specialists, designers, and UX specialists will develop a multifaceted approach when planning websites. They will all have a strong focus on the user experience and creating a website that is more enjoyable to use.
Long gone are the days where SEO specialists would stuff keywords into a page or designers would use an abstract design that is very difficult to use. They will have to think about the user throughout the design and optimisation process. This will lead to a more collaborative approach and better outcomes for everyone.