Posted on May 14, 2014

Content vs. UX Design: Building for Search or Design for People?

Content vs. UX Design: Building for Search or Design for People?


Website design often feels like a balancing act because of the apparent opposing demands of search engines and users. Search engines want content that they can easily interpret and they penalize websites that do not deliver. But this content is not always the best way to achieve sales or win leads and new clients. So there is sometimes a standoff between content strategy and User Experience (UX) design.


This standoff historically produced horrible results that included awful websites (built solely to appeal to search engines) trumping websites that had useful content and helpful products. This is where this debate about user experience began. Websites had no choice but to get keep up with the Joneses of SEO. After all, it’s no good having a website with top-notch user experience if it has…no users.


Thankfully things have evolved. More specifically, search engines have evolved. This means that they are getting better at determining the quality of a website. This is making it easier to focus on UX design.


Marketing, Not SEO


It is hard to think of an exact parallel outside of website design when considering the content vs. UX design debate. It would be like creating a new product but designing it in a way that was “easily marketable” rather than making your website meaningful and desirable to consumers. A product that focuses on meaningless marketing over the value that it provides typically fails over the long term. The same applies to website design.


The biggest search engine, Google, is gradually getting better at looking at websites like a human. Of course an algorithm cannot do this literally but there are a number of tools that Google is increasingly using to get as close as possible. And the more it does that, the more important it is becoming to engage in traditional forms of marketing to get your website and business seen.


That means SEO as it has been known for over a decade now is becoming out-of-date. The tricks and moves are becoming less important while Google pleads with all website owners to design websites for their users. That is advice that we should all take.


This means that means good user experience wins every time. But there is a big “but” – you cannot ignore the search engines. That sounds like a contradiction but instead it simply means following the rules. This means following Google’s suggestions on things like mark-ups or metadata. And it means fixing problems when they occur and having a fast loading website. Design for the user while following the guidelines of the search engines. After, and only after you do this, then you can focus on meaningfully marketing your message. When you create a buzz and enthusiasm about your website, the search engines will start to rank you.


One and the Same


The distinction between a content strategy and a UX strategy is a thing that will become less apparent. Make your content useful, desirable, accessible, and credible will inspire your customers.


Create your website to offer a fantastic user experience. Your website should also include valuable content that the user wants and / or needs (not content written primarily for search engines). While doing this you should make sure that you create and place your content according to industry standards. Then start to market your website through building a community and social media marketing to give it a boost. If you do this, the search engines will evolve to love your website, making both content and UX design the winners.