Web design versus SEO part 1 – resolving the conflict

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Web design versus SEO part 1 – resolving the conflict

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Whenever you commission a new website design various stakeholders will be pushing for particular features or content. This is part and parcel of the planning stage of web design.

Two needlessly conflicting areas are balancing good web design versus SEO (search engine optimisation).

There is no doubt that a graphic designer without much web experience could, if given a completely free reign, produce a web design that is very impressive but could harm important SEO performance indicators such as web traffic, rankings and domain authority. Both disciplines need to work together to create a website that works on the design and branding level, but also does the business in terms of orders, enquiries and web traffic.Web design versus SEO

Web design versus SEO

Ideally your web designer and your SEO consultant will know enough about both areas to come up with something that caters for both good design and SEO, but there will always be conflicts.

An extreme example is someone designing a page with big, slow loading videos, tiny text on low contrast backgrounds and a hidden menu. This might work in purely aesthetic terms, but this is likely to work against important SEO principles such as user experience, clear calls to action and encouraging users to explore your website further.

If you do happen to be producing a website for a company specialising in ‘big, slow loading videos’, you still wouldn’t necessarily put this on the homepage.

If an SEO specialist had full control, then the homepage might feature largely text with minimal graphics or design as this is ticks the boxes of number of Google ranking factors such as website speed and readable text. This however doesn’t differentiate the company, make their website memorable or encourage users to explore further. This is actually very bad for SEO.

Common pitfalls in web design versus SEO

In our experience, most web designers and SEO specialists are not that blinkered and know enough about each other’s disciplines to compromise and work together to produce a website that looks good and generates good quality traffic.

Here are some potential pitfalls for both disciplines:

Web design:

  • Big, so-called, ‘hero’ images that haven’t been optimised.
  • Using images instead of text.
  • Slow loading website, from excessive use of autoplay video, un-minified code etc
  • Unclear buttons / menus / calls to action
  • Poor contrast between text and background – light grey on white looks attractive but it is difficult to read for the visually impaired and everyone else for that matter.


  • Home page is text heavy and unmemorable.
  • The web page does not engage or create interest.
  • The web pages are over-stuffed with keywords making the text dull to read.
  • What images are included are very small and not big enough to illustrate the text or generate interest.
  • Links are too plain and easy to miss.
  • The website menu is plain text without convenient access to other sections of the website.

These are extreme examples and, in practice, good web designers and SEO consultants will know what to avoid. However there are always conflicts and trade-offs.

Conclusion and future blog posts

An SEO specialist will know that a website that is engaging and visually interesting is good for SEO as people spend more time on the site and visit more pages. A web designer will want to be associated with an attractive, but successful website that generates a good return on investment for the website owner.

We are currently looking into the issue of web design and SEO, comparing websites for design and SEO features and will be reporting back in part 2.

In the meantime, let us know what you think of the issue of web design versus SEO. What conflicts have you experienced or are there any horror stories you would like to share with us.

Further reading

Usability strategy and search engine optimization

Web design vs SEO

Web design vs SEO it doesn’t make much sense