Understanding The Full Impact Of Web Design On SEO, Branding, And More

BY DREW HENDRICKSFORBES.COM

Are you under the impression that web design should be an isolated part of your marketing efforts? This is a myth that many companies believe, and it could be setting your business back in more ways than one. Web design, while certainly important from an aesthetic point of view, encompasses much more. From SEO and traffic to branding and conversion rates, your site’s web design affects your entire internet presence.


Asking Important Questions
 

In a blog post by web designer, Joseph Putnam, the importance of a good website was discussed. Many businesses and professionals understand that web design is important, but do they truly know why? Putnam found himself challenged when asked by a client why this element was so important. He shared that it definitely mattered, but couldn’t provide a solid answer for why.

From there, Putnam did what any individual should do if faced with a question they don’t know the answer to. He went out and did some research, and while the findings weren’t anything groundbreaking, he was better able to provide his clients with answers in the future.

It’s time to stop settling for shallow answers and start analyzing the facts. Web design matters – but why? And what sort of impact does it have on the other aspects of your business?

The Importance of Good Web Design

Putnam’s search led him to a research study titled Trust and Mistrust of Online HealthSites. The aim of the study was to determine whether different design elements and content factors influenced trust among users visiting health websites.

The most surprising revelation was that design elements are exponentially more powerful than content, in terms of mistrust. When asked to describe why they mistrusted a website, 94 percent of comments were directly related to web design elements, while only 6 percent referenced specific content. While the study was directed towards health sites, it seems practical that the same basic principles would carry over to other industries. Specifically, here are some of the elements study participants pointed to when mistrusting a website:

  • Busy or complex layouts
  • Pop-up advertisements and flamboyant ads
  • Small print that’s hard to read
  • Boring web design/lack of color
  • Slow website intros and load times

Content Still Matters

Web design might be most important, but content is still vital. When those same participants were asked to provide reasons for why the trusted particular websites, content played a role in 83 percent of the answers. Participants liked sites that were informative, relevant, fresh, clear, and unbiased. They specifically enjoyed when sites gave age-specific information and provided answers for frequently asked questions.

The Far-Reaching Effects of Web Design 

Both content and web design are incredibly important, and furthermore, they go hand-in-hand. Without quality design, your visitors likely won’t take the time to read the content you’ve invested in. According to Darryl Stevens, CEO at digiTech, a web design and internet marketing firm in Austin, Texas, “Web design must be viewed through the lens of your entire business, or it will fall flat.” And while your site design should satisfy human eyes, it also impacts other areas of your business – specifically SEO, branding, and conversion rates.

The Web Design-SEO Relationship 

When approaching web design with SEO in mind, you have to think long-term. Design trends come and go, but your brand and online presence will last much longer. Focusing too much on fleeting design trends can be problematic, but you also don’t want to completely ignore current styles.

One of the most recent trends is parallax design, or the design that features a single page that seems to go on forever. Users like it because they can continuously scroll through content, while website owners prefer it because it keeps users engaged. Don’t count on the search engines to be parallax fans, however. By removing the traditional website structure that search engines use to crawl, you’re raising obvious alarm bells.Additionally, you’re spreading out an entire website’s worth of keywords over a single URL.  The parallax design may excite visitors today, but it could have negative consequences in the future.

On the opposite end of the spectrum you have responsive web design. With the future of internet searches trending in the mobile direction, the search engines are rewarding sites that invest in responsive web design. Not only does it reduce the risks of running two websites – which makes you susceptible to duplicate content – but it’s proven to lower bounce rates.

These are just a couple examples of how web design directly interacts with SEO, but there are dozens of other factors to keep in mind. From the amount of Flash you use to the structure of your HTML, every design feature has the potential to affect your search rankings.

Analyzing Branding in Terms of Web Design

There is an important distinction to be made when looking at branding in terms of web design. Your website’s design is not your brand, but it’s one of the brand elements that helps you build trust with your audience.

According to researcher Jared M. Spool, branding is an investment that grows over time with the end goal of getting people to say, “That’s a product or service I trust.” He claims “brands are perceptions” and “brand elements, such as names, logos, tag lines, trademarks, and packaging, are shortcuts to those perceptions.”

Others in the industry would agree with Spool, as consumers are obviously drawn towards brands they trust. They are more likely to buy when they correlate a product with a high brand strength. From a web design perspective, it’s quite clear that the design elements you choice will directly affect your overall branding strategy and market position.

How Web Design Affects Conversion Rates 

Finally, it’s important to understand how web design affects conversion rates. Particularly, you should pay attention to the following elements:

  • Navigation.  It’s easy to understand how navigation and accessibility relate to conversion rates. Websites that present challenges to visitors will likely lose their interest, while intuitive site structure encourages users to continue browsing.
  • Wording. According to an infographic by ZippyCart.com, the wording you use in calls-to-action have a direct impact on conversion rates. Specifically, including the word ‘free’ when asking people to sign up or download something has been shown to increase conversions by as much as 4.2 percent.
  • Color. You could study color and perception for years, but the most important takeaway is that color matters. Research suggests big, red, and bold is good for headlines, while navy helps develop a feeling of trust when used in a call-to-action button.

The Bottom Line 

In conclusion, it’s important that you understand the full impact of web design. It isn’t simply a preference or minor choice. From SEO and branding to conversion rates and more, your site’s web design plays a major role in how your brand is perceived by consumers everywhere.

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