Website content versus website design is a hot debate among marketing experts on the regular. To prove it, here’s an excerpt of an actual conversation during an actual team meeting not too long ago:
“The need for words f***s with my vision for the design,” says our designer. “S***w you content editors, content writers and SEO people!”
“Who gives a s**t about the designer’s job because it’s all about SEO and content,” pushes back our SEO guru.
Fortunately, our content creator has a background in writing and design, so he’s cognizant of the need for both.
One thing we all agree on is that we’re aiming to please Google – the top search engine that aims to give its searchers the best answers to their questions – first and foremost. That means creating clear, strategic content and a seamless user experience, which involves design planning and implementation.
And then it all needs a healthy dose of analysis and measuring to make sure content and design play nice together to give both Google and actual human web visitors easy, intuitive access to what they need. That’s how we approach the Savoir Faire website and the websites we create and manage for clients.
Website content versus website design – the sequel!
Getting content and design to play nice together is essential to keep your audience engaged and happy.
Our designer would love nothing more than to be able to develop whatever her heart desires design wise, but she also is of the Bauhaus school where “form follows function.” The way something looks should be determined by its purpose. For a website, that means how users interact with a site and what they need to find.
A minimalist approach makes sense today, as people want their information as quick and easy as possible, both on a computer and a mobile device. That may include using multiple headlines, short text blocks, bulleted lists and infographics in place of long narratives, essays and theses.
However, going back to the Bauhaus school, if a lot of text is necessary to convey the information users need, the design should let the content take the lead. Instead of scrolling past long sections of unattractive gray text, design can be used to break it up using pull-out elements like quotes, statistics and subheads, among other options.
Designers and content creators need to recognize there may be more than one type of audience visiting the site: those who want to quickly find what they came for, and others that want to dig deep into the content and don’t mind scrolling past the first screen.
There’s a tightrope between content and design when creating a good user experience. You don’t want to bombard someone with “more” of one than the other when the “more” creates something that is incoherent or puts the user experience at risk.
Design parameters in flux
We’ve discussed how trends change the way websites look and feel. Technology changes the way we display sites, too. Transitioning a site across devices and creating a seamless experience that someone can take from desktop to mobile devices is a challenge we didn’t worry about a handful of years ago.
Our team debates on things like, how many words do we need on a homepage? Isn’t it better to have pages deeper in the site with more content so they show up better in searches?
Our designer, SEO expert and content creator debate the focus of a homepage.
- Does too much text scare visitors away?
- How can we use the homepage to guide visitors deeper into the site?
Questions like these often don’t bring easy answers. The goal posts are constantly moving (and often it’s Google doing the moving).
For example, today we see pages with longer content succeed from an SEO standpoint. Pages that have thorough how-to or guide content that are frequently updated are resonating with both Google and actual human searchers, and they’re earning backlinks (links to the page from third parties).
However, those types of pages with thousands of words can become convoluted quickly if there’s not a clear collaboration between design and content. There’s a fine line in how to deliver a depth of information while both making sense and pleasing the eye. (We think we did a nice job on our Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing Strategy. What do you think?)
Designers aren’t content editors
One of the biggest frustrations a designer encounters is a long block of text and no direction for how to break it up into eye-pleasing nuggets. If the content doesn’t include bulleted lists, the designer isn’t going to create one. Or shouldn’t! It’s not the designer’s job to edit the content so it’s easier to digest.
There are design elements that content writers need to be aware of, even if they’re writing and editing in a program like Microsoft Word.
- Consider what the white space looks like.
- How many sentences are in each section?
- How can bullets and/or headers be utilized to break up the content?
We’ll admit it, lazy content writers had it easy for some time, stuffing a lot of words onto webpages in order to appear to be the authority on subjects. Google caught on to that, and now content needs to be strong, not just long, to earn organic rankings.
Both our designer and SEO expert have a lot of experience working with content creators with little sense of design or analytics (before they came to Savoir Faire!). At Savoir Faire, our team meets at least weekly to discuss challenges where design, content and SEO converge. We collaborate to find ways to make everyone happy: the designer, content creator, data analyzer, Google, the actual human audience and most importantly, the client.
Savoir Faire works with some clients that require very technical subject matter. So, we’re always looking for clever ways to introduce longer content and keep readers engaged. For one client, we decided an accordion-style design would work for a frequently asked question page. Instead of block after block of text, we have a thin box for each question, stacked, and the user can click to expand for the answer they’re looking for. The content is still there, so it satisfies Google without overwhelming the user.
People get smarter about how to dive deeply into content. With our design and content team working together, we allow visitors to choose their own adventures – with a happy ending for all of us.