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Old 01-09-2006   #1
glengara
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Do Designers Hate SEO?

There's a design forum I pop into now and again and contribute when an SEO related matter comes up, I keep a lowish profile and don't stick my oar in when say an all-Flash portfolio site is put up for review.

Recently though, someone put up a new client site, again it was all-Flash, but this time it was for a Belfast pub.
There were plenty of comments, mostly to do with aspects of the Flash, but no mention was made on whether an all-Flash site was the best format for a city-center pub in Belfast.

So I started a thread on whether all-Flash sites should be used in the commercial web, (my premise being that using Flash elements within HTML can keep everybody happy) and it was like I'd been found molesting their mothers!

Long story short, there's seems a deep well of loathing for SEO from a substantial number of designers, and it struck me this may be part of the reason for the large PPC/SEO differential mentioned in "Why is SEO so undervalued?" over at Threadwatch.
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Old 01-09-2006   #2
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Hmmm... This is a tough one. I manage an in-house interactive design group for a large multi-billion dollar company. My first SES was November 2001 in Dallas and just now are my all of my designers on board. It has been a tough battle to educate both our internal customers and our designers. I have been lucky though to surround myself with some newer, younger talent with a focus on standards based design. I have a stong feeling that this helps the on page elements significantly.

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Old 01-09-2006   #3
glengara
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You reminded me, "standards" got a bashing as well, it seems that between the two, some designers feel their hands are tied...
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Old 01-09-2006   #4
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If a designer's used to putting out fixed-sized Photoshop designs to be chopped up into table cells; SEO, accessibility and usability all eat into their ability to make pretty pictures without having to consider how they're actually going to be implemented. All of these things need to be considered at the earliest stages of a site build, and there can be a lot of restrictions in the design process.

When you have to consider using text for navigation and headings, what happens to designs when a user changes their font size, turning a fixed width layout into a fluid one etc., designing a web site becomes a lot more problematic.

When I started out, SEO didn't have to be considered until after a site was built, and accessibility was unheard of. Times have changed, and there are a lot of designers who haven't changed with them.
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Old 01-09-2006   #5
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Agreed... It was a definate mind shift away from the "old school" image map style sites. But it was a nescesity given that we mange 50 sites and thousands of pages of content.

We had one site like the above that would take days to add to the javascript and image based nav. Horrible.

Not one of my designers has been able to provide me with a useable design that couldn't fit into a tableless css driven page.
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Old 01-09-2006   #6
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Flash is how I got into seo. My first programming language was actionscripting. I couldn't get my flash sites to rank for squat. I figured there were 3 options

1. cloak (Way to risky)
2. build an html version (Way to expensive / Time consuming)
3. go hybrid with flash elements in table or div/css holding it all together. (Just right).

Obviously you have to deliver what the client wants and someone that can afford an all flash site better budget in traditional marketing techniques and PPC into their expensives. That or think of a way to link bomb the flash site for all their targeted terms and get it to stick .
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Old 01-09-2006   #7
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Again, I have to agree... I think my brain went to far to 'bare bones' text sites. Now I feel very strongly that flash can be used in the right fashion and help to increase conversion if it serves a purpose.

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Old 01-09-2006   #8
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Well I made sure it wasn't an anti-Flash rant as that gets you nowhere ;-)

However, it may well be a "local" thing, but here Flash still seems to be the yardstick to measure competence in design by, and many designers appear to be unable to see past it.
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Old 01-09-2006   #9
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Worthless Shady Criminals: A Defense Of SEO from me last year looked at precisely this breakdown between designers and SEO, examining why I think it happened and how terribly bad it is. It wasn't always this way and seems to have largely come from people understandings that SEO involves less savory tactics such as blog spamming.

In reality, designers really need to understand that search engines are like a third browser -- and in fact a far more popular browser used by more people than using Firefox. They will spend tons of time making sure a site works for IE or Firefox, even Opera. But no time to make sure that the browsers of search engines are going to be OK with it?

I've found this has worked when I've had to talk with designers in the past, especially when you're saying you aren't trying to wipe out good design but ensure it is ALSO search friendly -- which is often more human friendly and solves the "I built it but no one came problem."
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Old 01-09-2006   #10
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Some designers get the unfortunate task of trying to promote a site within a short period of time (short term promotions, independent movies, etc.). At that point, I think most designers just go all out on design and let the marketers work their magic.
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Old 01-09-2006   #11
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I just don't see how you can honestly separate these three elements:

- usability
- design
- optimization (whether you do it for web standards reasons or usability reasons or SEO reasons)

Folks have to be able to use the back button. They have to be able to bookmark a specific page, not just a general flash page they have to navigate inside of to get back to the content they want every time. They have to see what they're getting in the title tag. There needs to be separate pages for separate topics so users interested in one don't have to look at the crap they don't want.

To me, an all-Flash site, even for portfolio purposes, doesn't fit these criteria - plain and simple. I used to be a Flash designer - I had an all Flash portfolio (several actually) and I built them for others. But, I was wrong and I was blind and I admit it. The sites I built were not usable, not user-friendly, not design-friendly and not search-engine friendly. Their only redeeming quality was that they were aesthetically pleasing to look at - and that's simply not enough.
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Old 01-09-2006   #12
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Exactly Rand!!

What never ceases to amaze me is that many web designers still don't understand web standards and usability guidelines.

Web design is actually closer to architecture, than magazine cover design, in terms of accessibility.

Imagine a world where architects designed buidings just to be cool and edgy - and totally ignored physical accessibility issues.....
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Old 01-09-2006   #13
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*Their only redeeming quality was that they were aesthetically pleasing to look at - and that's simply not enough.*

We're a really small market with few competitive (in SEO terms) sectors, and it often seems sites are designed more to impress peers than actually address client interests.
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Old 01-09-2006   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris_D
Imagine a world where architects designed buidings just to be cool and edgy - and totally ignored physical accessibility issues.....
That is the perfect analogy. It's just a matter of getting a whole community of people who don't think that way to come around on an issue that's the lifeblood of their work - no easy thing. As someone who used to be deep into that, I can tell you it's hard to walk away from your bread source and branch out into broader minded thinking. I don't imagine any online debate would ever be successful in convincing those folks.

If only someone would make a super-flash-designer version of Amazon.com and make them all shop there, they might get the picture.
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Old 01-09-2006   #15
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If only someone would make a super-flash-designer version of Amazon.com and make them all shop there, they might get the picture
I would shop there if the site was user-friendly and provided the same ease of use as the static site provides. I think it can be done, just nobody is willing to take on the challenge.
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Old 01-10-2006   #16
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Interesting. Truthfully, SEOs and web developers often voice a dislike of web designers -- specifically, the type of web designers being discussed here. The problem, I think, is that the emphasis is on being into design, rather than the Web, per se. It's pretty much the same when the designer, or the client, is into print; you still get overblown, download-heavy design that's not particularly usable or market-oriented, and darned difficult to optimize.

I'm nor quite sure why, when usability and optimization issues are brought to the attention of such designers, they would even want to dismiss them (heck, if someone came to you and said that you could make your work better by doing X, would you dismiss it out of hand?). But dismiss them they do.

I have wondered whether what appears to be designer resentment of SEOs is due to the fact that visual-only designers know they're delivering a website that their client will have to pay (through the nose, and forever) to promote. I also wonder whether they tell their clients, or just fail to mention it. I do know that clients in general just expect that getting the website will produce both visitors and sales; in the absense of honest communication about Web promotion issues, how would they know to enough think otherwise?

Truthfully, the number of people who called me just last year who had been advised by their designers that they needed meta tags is amazing. I'm not really faulting this type of web designer; I can understand that they may like doing one thing far more than another. And some of them turn out stunning work.

I guess I was lucky, in a way; I discovered SEO and usability in ... 1997, before I had even formed my company. Of course, it is tremendous a hassle to learn all this stuff, much less incorporate it into a seamless whole. It's not as if we have endless amounts of time ... oh, wait, we do.

Which is also what it takes to learn Flash. My hat's off to anyone who's done it. Being good at part of the picture is an achievement.

And, given what I suspect Adobe's going to do with Flash now that they've acquired Macromedia, an even more valuable achievement.
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Old 01-10-2006   #17
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ok, I am entering this discussion really late.

My two cents:
You can have the best of both worlds. I programmed a website located @ www.mansgarage.com. I did the shopping cart in flash, because it saves a lot of time, and is user friendly.

In order to insure that our 80,000 products get indexed, I also created php pages for each product, and called it the 'catalog'. There is a link at the bottom of the home page to the catalog, which lists all 80,000 products in a form that is more search engine friendly.

When a user finds the product in the search engine, they link to the actual product in the flash cart. this has worked great for us.

BTW, if anyone wants the cart, let me know, I will send you a zip.
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Old 01-11-2006   #18
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Bridging the Gap

My firm has been doing SEO and site development since 1997, and has worked with many designers, whether employed by the client or by a client vendor. I’ve discovered a few statements that help to bridge the gap between designers and SEO people.

- What is good for search engines tends to be good for usability, e.g., short, spiderable and email-able URLs; scannable heading and sub-headings in text; sufficient text to close the sale or call to action; explanatory textual links that tell the users what their investment in a click will get them (and are easier to update than gif links); etc.

- “In working with us, your team will learn SEO design precepts that you can use for your other projects or clients.”

- “SEO will increase the ROI of the site, so that your client will have more to spend on other design projects with your firm, or your boss will be pleased with the results of your efforts.”

- The enormous and well-publicized growth of the SEM field, and Google’s stock price, attest to the value of SEO.

Increasingly, I find that designers understand the importance of SEO design precepts, and want to learn more about them. In fact, over the last two years my firm has been doing a lot more SEO training jobs for clients’ designers, programmers, and marketing managers. Thanks in part to sites like SearchEngineWatch, I spend much less time than I did years ago arguing for the value of incorporating SEO design precepts.

~Rob Laporte, DISC
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Old 01-12-2006   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris_D
Imagine a world where architects designed buidings just to be cool and edgy - and totally ignored physical accessibility issues.....
This is the best analogy I've seen.

We are currently in talks with a number of vertical website providers. Every single one of them over-utilizes Flash...some 100%. They are finding themselves in a very precarious position as their clients become more and more familiar with SEO and are starting to demand it.
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Old 01-13-2006   #20
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Great discussion on Flash and actual tactics that began here. I've split it all to here: Revisting How Search Engines Deal With Flash.
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