At what point do you sacrifice design or interactivity to achieve higher rankings in the search engines? This is the subtext of virtually every user-experience article and study about web design, and it's a challenge we face every day.
In January, I wrote about the need to be in the first few positions in Google - if you're not on the first page of the search engines, you'll miss 92% of potential visitors. Then again, what good are visitors if you provide a horrible experience for them once they reach your site? Frustrate or bore them and they won't stick around to find out how awesome you are.
Fortunately, creativity is our middle name. And when you regularly put web designers, web developers, search engine optimization experts, and user experience experts into a room together as we do every day in Louisville and Orlando, amazing things happen.
Sure We Can Do It. But Should We Do It?
Last week at our Louisville office, one of our web designers brought up infinite scrolling. You've probably seen this on Facebook - scroll to the bottom of the page and more posts/comments/images appear automagically. But should they? That's the question we discussed.
Pros: It might be cool to someone who hasn't seen it before.
Con #1: All that hidden, automatically loaded content is never actually served up to Google, which means it won't help your search engine rankings. Google just reads the page - it doesn't actually scroll and wait for more stuff to load. If it isn't found by Google, it's considered less relevant and ranked lower. If you don't find it important enough to link to, why should Google?
Con #2: You built an amazing user experience, complete with a call-to-action at the bottom of every page so that your visitors can take the action you want them to take (you did, didn't you?), but your visitors can't get to your call-to-action because stuff keeps loading and pushing it farther down the page. So now your visitor becomes a reader, not a customer.
Con #3: Your visitors get frustrated because they click to read something, and then head back and have to keep scrolling down to reload everything again just to get to the next article. They may do it once...maybe twice...and then frustration sets in and they're gone.
Con #4: Oh...and it's not really “wow” any more because so many people are doing it.
You Don't Have to Sacrifice the Wow Factor
There are so many other ways to delight your visitors that you don't have to sacrifice your search engine rankings to do so. Add a delightful button hover state. Create custom infographics. Display different images or text based on the time the sun sets on our Orlando web design office.
If you really want to wow your visitors, there are a million other ways to do so. You shouldn't sacrifice search engine rankings to chase down what may seem like the latest trend. Doing so may make you cool; but, if nobody can find you, who's going to see your amazing website?