In order to be successful in the modern age, businesses must develop an online presence and the forefront of online presence lies within a company’s website. Often organisations wish to present their website in a way that visually appeals to the user and therefore enhances their user’s experience (UX). However, this approach hinders many of the essential processes involved with SEO, which then sparks the debate, which is more necessary for a website: findability (SEO) or usability (User Experience Design)?
In an attempt to convey information to a wider audience and to maximise website usability, many businesses try to present their output in a simplified manner as a direct and concise form of marketing. This approach allows a business to dilute the content intake from their customer to avoid an overload of information. The reason for companies to apply this tactic runs in correlation with the findings of Lee & Lee’s 2004, their study which found that online information overload results in less satisfied, less confident, and more confused consumers. To compensate for the lack of information, aesthetically pleasing website design is regularly deemed as a viable substitute. It is suggested that the better looking the website, the greater perceived credibility of the service or product. Such views are supported in the work of Holmes & Robins (2008) whose findings indicate that when the same content is presented using different levels of aesthetic treatment, the content with a higher aesthetic treatment was judged as having higher credibility.
Navigation through a design based website, e.g. website with a sleek design but just showcasing a portfolio
Hunter’s website is a good example of a website that looks great but is not necessarily SEO friendly. As we scroll through the homepage, we can see that they’ve included high quality images of their work on their website. While this is enticing to look at, if we keep scrolling down, we can see that due to lack of keywords and optimisation, the website may be hard for users to find via search engines. This is discussed in further detail in future screen flows.
Using credibility as an indicator of positive audience engagement, it is also important to note other aspects which affect an audience’s perceived credibility online. Consistent with the data presented by Fang et. al. (2000), website credibility increases when the site conveys a real-world presence, is easy to use, and is updated often; and on the other hand, a website loses credibility when it has errors, technical problems, or distracting advertisements. With reference to these results in regards to visually driven website design, the minimal informative content does not allow the opportunity for regular updates, which consequently affects the website’s credibility. It is for these reasons why findability and SEO are considered to be the preferential choices in developing an online presence. You can read more on findability and SEO here, or watch the second episode of this series.