Left Bay’s Musings on the Media

Searching for answers in sales and marketing

Archive for March, 2008

SEO vs. Design: The Design Argument

I’m a designer before anything else. Before student, before music enthusiast – even search marketer or search optimizer. You read that right; my loyalties lie in the art of communicating information in pretty ways – not making the information super accessible and searchable. It’s not that I hold no value to optimization; in fact I often fight with designers about its importance. It’s just that to me, how something looks when it is found is more important to me than the ease of finding it. As a user, I have loads more satisfaction in going through a little trouble to find something that is absolutely awesome looking than finding something really easily and becoming disappointed at its mediocrity. However, I do understand that most people (especially clients!) think the opposite, and take that greatly into account when I sit down to do work.

Even still, while sitting through Gord Hotchkiss’ and Shari Thurow’s presentation about SEO, Usability, & Design at SMX West, I found myself writhing silently in my seat every time they gave design a roll of the eyes. We designers get such a stereotype in the search world it’s hard not to get offended. Yes, we love flash. Yes, we value aesthetics over usability. Yes, we think most things that are optimized compromise beauty. But I do think there is such a thing as a world where designers and optimizers exist peacefully in a completely beautiful, usable, and searchable world.

Take me for instance. While design trumps mostly everything, I don’t make any design choices without first considering usability. SEO and usability have been integrated into my design process, so no part of it is actually neglected. Sometimes one wins over another, and if it’s SEO I just swallow my pride a little bit and deal with it. In the end, hopefully (and usually) something that is more than satisfactory for both designer and client results.

I know that steadfast searchers and stubborn designers will probably forever be at odds to some degree, but I think if we continue to work together we might discover something new about the beauty of these things in conjunction.