The Battle Between Web Designers and SEO

I came across an interesting thread over at Search Engine Watch Forums today entitled “Do Designers Hate SEO?” Forum member glengara questioned whether all-Flash sites should be used in the commercial web. An “all-Flash” site typically does not have any html text associated with it and many times is all contained within one file so that the site does not even contain sub pages. The problem with this type of site is that they are not very search engine friendly. Search engines cannot read the contents of the Flash file or files so they have difficulty understanding what the site is all about.

I have seen this battle time and time again where designers feel restricted because they have take search engines and usability into consideration, thus limiting their artistic creativeness. SEOs are frustrated because of the lack of content and/or pages they have to work with. Those on both sides that end up coming to terms often settle for an html site that uses Flash components within its structure. Being part SEO and part designer myself, that is definitely where I would fall into place.

Forum member seomike posts the following comment:

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).

Danny Sullivan later chimes in with an excellent comment:

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?

Fellow moderator Chris D provides an excellent example:

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

Imagine a world where architects designed buildings just to be cool and edgy – and totally ignored physical accessibility issues…..

I imagine the battle will continue on in this thread as well as future ones. The bottom line is that you can have your cake and eat it too but it will require a team effort between designers, programmers, search engine optimizers, usability experts, copywriters, etc. It requires each person involved in the development and marketing of a site to see the big picture and put aside their differences.

I’ll wrap this post with the following comment from forum member jetboy:

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.

David Wallace

David Wallace, co-founder and CEO of SearchRank, is a recognized expert in the industry of search and social media marketing. Since 1997, David has been involved in developing successful search engine and social media marketing campaigns for large and small businesses. Follow +David Wallace on Google + as well as Twitter.

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