5 Signs Your Web Designer Knows Nothing About SEO


Or doesn’t care.

Hi! I’m Christina. I’m an SEO. It’s what I do full-time for a living. You know why? Because it takes one person (me) at least 40 hours a week to do all that’s necessary for 5 or so clients. It’s all I can do to keep up with the daily demands on my time and makes sure I am doing all that’s necessary on-page and off-page to make sure my clients rank higher and get the kind of quality traffic I told them was possible.

My BF (best friend, or boyfriend? OR BOTH? You decide!) is a web developer. Full time. 40 hours a week (at least) of taking assets from a PR firm and converting them into working awesome websites that are perfect regardless of which browser you’re looking at.

Yet another friend of mine is a graphic designer. He spends about 60 hours a week (he’s insane) taking the vague, nebulous “I kinda like bricks. Can you create for me a background that’s sorta brick-like, but not TOO brick-like.” requests from crazy people and codifying that nonsense into awesome well thought-out, engaging designs for websites. AND he now leaves room for blocks of text in his designs ’cause I threatened his life if he didn’t.

So when some web designer comes along and says “I Build Search Engine Friendly Web Sites And Specialize in Usability and Graphic Design,” I say “You and what army, buddy?!” Because, honestly, each one of those separate elements is one person’s full time job.

The most egregious cross-crafting claims seem to come from web development/design firms. I’ve seen a rash of it lately, and it’s ticking me off, so I’m going to embark on the web-designer-disparaging rant that every SEO seems to indulge in at least once in their career.

If you’re a small business owner or indeed anyone shopping around for web designers/developers, this post is for you, so listen up. If you wouldn’t ask the following questions, listen way harder, ’cause you totally should.

Sign #1 That Your Web Designer Knows Bubkus About SEO:

During the web designers sales pitch, you say “I’m concerned about the Search Engines’ ability to access and properly index my site. Consequently, I’d like to know what kind of code you’ll be using to render the major design elements of my site.” and they answer:
a. Flash
b. Javascript
c. It doesn’t matter
d. I am be coding very well, it’s ok.

No! No! Bad web developer! Bad! Search engines are crappy at indexing stuff in Flash videos, they don’t execute Javascript and it TOTALLY matters that you use correct HTML and CSS to create major design elements!

How would it be if you launched your site, only to discover it can’t get indexed because the HTML navigation was triggered by JAVASCRIPT and couldn’t be accessed by the search engines. Really crappy, as one unfortunate client of mine recently realized.

Sign #2 That Your Web Designer Knows More About the Flight Patterns of African Swallows than SEO

After the first answer, you start thinking, damn I better quiz this guy a bit more. After all I can stipulate how I want my code written, right? Maybe they’ll still prove acceptable. So, you ask “What would you recommend for home page content?” and they smile knowingly and say:
a. A splash page that asks the user whether or not they want the Flash version of the site or the HTML version
b. A splash page that is a one-time intro and that is bypassed after it has planted a cookie in the user’s browser
c. A copy-less page with huge, high-def pictures of your products that play on an embedded flash player, and one link to the “contact” page.
d. I am making you very good a home page with many links and picture movies.

Swing and a miss you naughty developer you. Splash pages are an SEO nightmare. Doubly so when they lead to two different versions of the site. Forget the duplicate content issues, think of total void of index-able copy that most of these types of pages suffer from. Also, Search Engines don’t download cookies, so in the case of suggestion B, the SE will never get past your crappy splash page or index any internal pages on the site. If the SEs have nothing to index, THEY WON’T INDEX ANYTHING!

Sign #3 That Your Web Designer Wouldn’t Know Good SEO if it Jumped Up and Bit Them on the…Face.

By now, you should be running far, far away. If the dude or dudette who told you they do web design AND SEO has given you any of the previously mentioned answers, for the love of little green apples, find someone who can do better. However, if you feel like torturing yourself or just getting a good laugh, ask them the following question: “What’s the difference between a 301 redirect and a 302 redirect?” You’ll likely get the following answers:
a. Nothing. They accomplish the exact same task: taking the user from a defunct page and sending them to another.
b. Did some crappy SEO set me up?
c. Ever heard of a meta refresh redirect? Duh, everyone’s using them now.
d. I am seeing no need to worry about redirecting. We’ll take care of it.

Wrong, wrong, wrong and ugh. Firstly, although the user experience is the same for both kinds of redirects, only one passes on the SEO benefit of any inbound links: the 301 redirect. Secondly, Yes, I, the SEO, totally set them up to protect themselves against frauds who claim they know SEO. Thirdly, the world wide web consortium has completely deprecatedΒ the use of the meta refresh tag and suggests using javascript in the VERY VERY rare event that you’d ever need a page to refresh automatically and often. The refresh redirect is of the most abused forms of redirect out there right now.

And fourthly, and perhaps most importantly, don’t ever let someone tell you redirects are unimportant especially if you’re switching over a site that ranks great to a new design with different URLS. It will totally, totally screw you over.

Sign #4 That Your Web Designer Knows Less about SEO than my 95 Year Old Grandma

The question “What will the URLs look like?” is answered any of the following ways:
a. It depends on how the user got to the page. There is a bunch of parameter stuff and you don’t need to worry about it.
b. They’re dynamically generated. The search engines won’t care. Lots of sites have dynamically generated URLs.
c. Look at this cool session id…

FYI, all of you out there in search of SEO knowledgeable web designers who are about to get seriously messed up by bad URLs, it is almost always to provide the static-appearing, keyword rich URLs that the search engines prefer. There is no good reason for a session id anymore- that’s done with cookies these days, and search engines do care a lot about how clean the URL is. It should also have keywords in it. So there. πŸ˜›

The 5th and Most Irritating Sign That An Untrained Monkey Knows More about SEO Than Your Web Designer

If, when you start querying your designer about SEO concerns, they condescendingly shake their heads and say any of the following, stand up and equally condescendingly slam the door on your way out of their office:
a. SEO can be done effectively after the design process is completed, so don’t worry yourself about it now.
b. SEO is easy. We do it all the time. Don’t worry about it.
c. SEO is as complicated as web design and I don’t’ think you’ll understand what we do even if I explain it to you.
d. I guarantee you that if we do your design, you’ll rank #1. Cross my heart and hope to die.

If I ate a carrot every time I heard answer #1, I’d be able to see in the dark. You have to take SEO into consideration from the very beginning of the web design process. You’ll get the most bang for your buck later if the foundations of the Site are SEO friendly.
SEO is not easy. I swear to god, it’s not. It’s hard, it takes oodles of time and it’s constantly changing so even if your web designer knew what he was doing 5 years ago, it doesn’t matter because it’s probably wrong now. SEO, however, is not rocket science, or even molecular biology. You can understand the fundamentals at least enough to make an educated decision as to who to have design your site. And lastly, if anyone claims that they can guarantee rankings, they’re simply full of it. Period.

Disclaimer that will keep me from being flamed by Web Designers (hopefully)

Now that I’m done with my tirade, let me give some caveats that should do at least a bit to put out some enraged fires:

1. I don’t actually think that web designers have to know anything about SEO. That’s what SEOs are for. However, I do take issue when someone CLAIMS to know SEO and marginalizes an entire industry into an add-on to a web design package and then screws it up.
2. There are a lot and I mean a LOT of web designers who can answer all these questions flawlessly. These individuals who somehow balance their knowledge of design with their knowledge of the requirements of the search engines are priceless and awesome and you should hire them when you find them.
3. There are even more web designers and web design firms who know they don’t know and partner with SEO firms to make sure their finished product is awesome and SE friendly. This is commendable. If I were a business owner looking for a web design firm, I would choose this kind of setup.

So don’t flame me, mkay?

Have a web designer horror story of your own? We’ve got a sympathetic ear and a character-limit-free comments section; tell us all about it below!

Christina is a former LunaMetrician and contributor to our blog.

  • Thanks for this post, it made me laugh! I read so many blog posts from the industry just to ‘keep up’, but rarely do they make me laugh and it is a great way to start the day.

    Also, it is fantastic to find an article which verbalises SEO frustrations so well!

    ‘not too brick-like’….ahahahaha

  • Oh, and just one thing – I loved this article so much I posted it on my Facebook, but your meta titles (automatically generated?) are causing a confusing looking snippet/title…

  • Christina

    @Kate Thanks! Looking into the title tag issue now. @weddesign Oh. My. God. You do web design AND search engine design AND development? AND SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING? Which, I assume by this comment means spamming blogs to you. The ultimate irony of you spamming this PARTICULAR blog post is just…Well you either made my day or ruined it your horrible, horrible person.

  • Steven Taylor

    1 sign your SEO knows nothing about SEO: They say Google doesn’t execute JS.


  • Oh, Steven beat me to it.

    Also, Flash can be indexed if it is coded properly. To marginalize a technology because you don’t understand is just like making the assumptions in this article. (…I can’t believe I stood up for flash…)

    Also, Steven, you have to recognize that just because ONE search engine can, doesn’t mean that’s where all of one’s customers/visitors come from. Does Yahoo? Does Bing? Does whatever other one do it as well?

  • Christina

    @Steven: Here’s a quote from the article listed above:

    “Matt Cutts: For a while, we were scanning within JavaScript, and we were looking for links. Google has gotten smarter about JavaScript and can execute some JavaScript. I wouldn’t say that we execute all JavaScript, so there are some conditions in which we don’t execute JavaScript. Certainly there are some common, well-known JavaScript things like Google Analytics, which you wouldn’t even want to execute because you wouldn’t want to try to generate phantom visits from Googlebot into your Google Analytics. We do have the ability to execute a large fraction of JavaScript when we need or want to. ”

    So I see I need to amend my mid-rant statement. Google CAN execute Javascript, but only seems to when it thinks it’s appropriate. We’ve had several recent cases where Google didn’t think it was necessary to execute some JS on a few sites. Unfortunately for our clients, the JS elements the SEs didn’t think were important were main navigation elements.

    The SEs weren’t getting past their first page or indexing anything beyond that. The day after we removed the JS elements from the menus of both clients indexed pages went from 2 to 300+. Because of this as well as the fact that countless other statements from Google promote the use of HTML navigation elements, I’ll stick to my guns here.

    @Keif: Google only indexes textual content in flash files, and that only if you jump through hoops to makes sure you’ve coded it correctly. http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2008/06/improved-flash-indexing.html In the same article it mentions that “Googlebot does not execute some types of JavaScript. So if your web page loads a Flash file via JavaScript, Google may not be aware of that Flash file, in which case it will not be indexed.”

    In most cases that come to my attention, (i.e. cases in which people are having problems because of main site components created in JS and Flash) the web developer used JS to execute Flash. Also Keif, since Yahoo is about to start using Bing for search, it’s really only important if Bing indexes Flash and they’re still really bad at it.

  • Larry G

    Loved the article! Thanks for the rant – made me smile. A nit pick… I think you meant to say that the W3 has “deprecated” the meta-refresh, not “depreciated.” While it’s true that the tag has lost value over time… not sure that’s what you intended to say. πŸ™‚

  • Christina

    @Larry Thanks! Typo fixed.

  • It’s so nice to hear that I am “priceless and awesome”. I love you for that. I’m going to go build some SEO friendly sites now using sliced up PSDs into great big JPGs.

    Just kidding!!

  • LOL… oh jeeze, this article is fantastic! All so true on everything you touched base on – I usually run into this when we’re doing proposals for a client (and they have other companies pitching for the same job). Best advice – think SEO first and foremost (even prior to registering a domain name for that matter). Why build a house only to realize that its built on a deck of cards?

    Thanks for the great post Christina!

  • Tom

    This was great. As an SEO I am lucky to have a killer web designer right next to me who thinks about these things and most importantly asks about them. I see so many sites that have been “optimized” only to get e-mails from them asking why their page doesn’t show up on Google…. because it is not indexed.

  • great post and your sayings are SO true!But hey…I’m a freelancer and I adore web design seo and developing.I believe I’m good at seo-ing so please dont shoot me!! πŸ˜€

  • I have run into quite a few clients that tell me; “my web design company told me SEO was included so I don’t know why my site does not rank.” – usually all they did was stuff a bunch of keywords in the title and description and charge them 25% more!

  • I agree with everything you said, except for one thing – “small business” parts. Years ago I set off to help small businesses with their websites and quickly realized that small businesses do not have sufficient budget to hire a web designer, a graphic designer, and an SEO. If you suggest ppc marketing expert and, perhaps, social media agency, content writers with SEO knowledge – that’s when they will start having a heart attack.

    I discovered that the average website budget of small businesses is about $500/mo. What agency can take clients with such small budget? Not many. I do, unfortunately. And I do all those functions. And I make it work by focusing on one thing a month that would make the most impact, usability, and slow progress. You cannot test anything well with 300/mo traffic, so you make due.

    The goals of small businesses (brick-and-mortar) are completely different than small companies. They target local markets, their goal is to bring the customers through the door (not through the website) and they are very reluctant to trust anyone about things they do not undertsand.

    Their SEO goals is to appear on the first page of Google search results. For which keywords? They don’t know. Eventually, you fight over each keyword because that’s not the keywords they want.

    Most of my time goes into explaining, teaching, holding their hands, “No, it is not wise to sue JohnBabyFace for slamming you on Yahoo. We don’t even know if he is a real person.” I don’t even go into linkable content and blogs. I turned a couple of clients onto blogging. My goal for them is to get comments.

    All I am saying is, I wish small companies had great websites. But they don’t. From time to time, I have to take a deep breath, imagine myself in my happy place, feel the blood pressure normalizing, and say, “The reason you want more traffic is…”

  • Ok, so though I am actually the one you rail against. I am a web designer, front-end developer, usability, accessibility and SEO subject matter expert (look at my LinkedIn link there if you need verification ;P) I do agree with most of what you said here.

    I get so aggravated when I am brought in as an after thought as an SEO, a designer without SEO consideration or a front-end where SEO has never been a consideration.

    I therefore always (and gently) must say something like… soo…. is SEO a concern for you? Because if it is then we need to go back to page one or we need to reconsider this on page two.. the idea being that SEO and web dev and web design are often approached as separate elements. (As after affect of the .com bust in the early 2000’s was specialization) However, it is really one big Jenga puzzle and it starts at the design level.

    SEO should be there from day one, before anything on the site has every been determined.

    So good article, even if I am one of those “I Build Search Engine Friendly Web Sites And Specialize in Usability and Graphic Design” people… but rest assured I make it my business to be very good at what I do, so no need to worry πŸ˜‰

  • I loved this post. It’s true and it’s funny.

    I think @Lyena Solomon makes a very good point about the small business market and their budgets. There is no way they are paying a Designer, Developer, SEO and experts in SMM and SEM. Our approach is to take the initial budget and make the client some sales. Then they can see the value of investing more.

    I think your article gives them some great questions to ask to get the most effective site they can.

  • This post is the best I have read in a while. Thank you for making me laugh. So true.

  • Christina

    @Kristine: If you know what you’re talking about, you’re totally not the person I’m ranting about here. You’re one of the people in the disclaimer paragraph about those who ACTUALLY know what they’re talking about and advertise that fact πŸ˜€
    @Alastair & Lyena, I agree with your assessment of needs vs. budget, however, that’s not at all what I’m really addressing. I’m simply talking about the false claims that some web designers make, that’s all. Actually, deciding what priorities are for the small business owner/webmaster would be a great blog post in and of itself. Cheers! @Everyone else: Glad you liked the post!

  • COME ON!!! Web designer needs to do 2 things:
    – design a website in Photoshop
    – slice it

    That’s why you hire a team of people with different expertise (developer, designer, Javascript expert/UI designer, SEO) to handle your website.

    Don’t put your complete website in hands of designer.

    Regarding Javascript and Flash, it can be handled so that the engines can see your website.

  • Spot-On! Loved the take on this topic and the question and answer is funny as heck!

    I’ve added your blog to my daily reading here, Christiana….thanks, eh!



  • Ok, your option D’s were hilarious, but there are at least a few decent multi-speciality designers out there. You won’t get the same results as paying four people to spend 40 hours a week on your site, but then again you won’t be paying for four people.

    For small businesses, it’s the only way.

  • Very Very Cool! Loved the Lingo!

  • Funny, I think we were on the same page this week. I just wrote a post about 18 SEO things that should be taken care during web development. I agree that not all developers need to know SEO, but they’d be doing their clients a huge favor if they did. But like you said, it’s even worse when they ‘claim’ to know it πŸ™‚

  • SEO matters. But… no seo expert can really claim to understand the black boxes that drive search results. They are intentionally kept obscure and are constantly changing. Follow best practices (you’ve outlined many of them well), keep your content fresh and engaging, and don’t be afraid to take risks. Want to put some really cool flash content on the home page? Go for it! Embed youTube videos, twitter feeds, etc. (all SEO invisible) – then change it all again next month. The majority of sites have as their dominant organic search term “mydomain” with good referral sources next in line.

  • Jay

    I didn’t bother to read all of the replies but I disagree with your outtake on Flash. Google has really improved it’s ability to index Flash now so it is not nearly as big of an issue anymore. A Flash site can actually be quite SEO friendly now. As far as JS navigation…I don’t know why anyone would want to do so anyhow heh…

    Bah as I write this I saw Flash being discussed. Oh well…

    Anyhow my point is, a great developer puts the

  • Le

    Man, this made me laugh but hurt at the same time.
    I consider myself a ‘marketing/creative consultant’. I work in a pretty small market and deal with customers who have gross sales anywhere from 150K to 5mil a year.
    Often times I get called in to ‘design a web site’. Up till a couple of months ago, I thought SEO was a branch of the government. Since then I have had a crash course on SEO and how it affects everything else. I’m still learning and was smart enough to partner with another company that is a successful SEO. Now, I resell their service.
    I was thinking, as I read the article, I could have similar rants as a big picture marketing person about all the specific job titles you listed. The SEO that thinks their job is the be all end all to decent ROI, or the designer that thinks their Picasso, or the web developer who believes that not including the latest web fad will make the customer’s web site a complete failure.
    I think the closer you are to the customer, the more you realize how important their bottom line really is. And, if I can help that customer develop a site that generates traffic that turn into sales, then I’m doing my job.
    If I missed a few technical points of web design, if the web site wasn’t the prettiest, or my SEO got them ranked number 7 instead of number 1… I can still sleep at night because I know I delivered the best I could for my customer – and they are happy with it. That’s what matters for me.
    Thanks for the article.

  • Le

    they’re not their – sorry.

  • I can see where you are coming from and there has always been a level of skepticism allocated towards SEO consultants.

    That being said, making your website SEO friendly isn’t a huge task. From a purely design point of view, beyond some things you already mentioned, there are a number of considerations, fast download times, structure of Divs to make sure content is viewed before less important elements, setting up nofollow tags in robots files for a site to avoid search engines crawling and ranking unimportant pages.

    After the design set up though, SEO really isn’t much more advanced than simply providing content focused on good keywords. You can teach a client where to put keywords and how to avoid keyword stuffing. Tell them what they should do with on page links, the tiered structure of their sites and train them on getting inbound links.

    It isn’t difficult for clients to do themselves. If they don’t have the time to do it they can get an SEO knowledgeable copywriter for the content and then hire an SEO consultant to gather inbound links from relevant and important sites.

    Sorry to step on the toes of any SEO consultants but the majority are doing clean up work, not implementation work. Many SEO practices are common knowledge these days so it is fitting for a designer to build the site in an SEO friendly manner and then either train the client to build an SEO conscious site or give them the details of professionals that can help them with writing content and gathering links.

  • Ha, great article, Christine. I also wrote an article last year, “How To Suck At SEO”. http://www.bayareasearchengineacademy.org/blog/?p=239. πŸ™‚

  • OMG, you are the best at nailing the issues! I go through this all the time, and now I think I’m just going to show them your post. Love your sense of humor, and BTW, Thomas Petty, above, posted this on FB. He and I are FB friends, so here’s to viral marketing! πŸ™‚

  • Christina

    @Nancy: Thanks! @Tom: Thanks for posting up on FB! I’ll check out the article this evening.

  • Christina, this is long overdue and you have a gift and flare for humor. Keep up the great communications and I feel sure that your readers will have an ear to hear. The pitches of yesteryear just won’t work anymore because (thank God) the public is getting much smarter.

    Be encouraged and thanks for the smiles!
    John Alexander
    Director, Search Engine Academy

  • Eye Bridge

    thank you very much for sharing these views. i found this article very informative.

  • Christina

    @ John: Thanks!

    @ Eye Bridge: Thank you very much for blogspamming. I found your comment very nausea inducing.

    No link for you. Not even a no-follow one. πŸ˜›

  • This was excellent. It is a problem with our industry that people over look the importance of seo. I for one used to battle these problems daily with the team I worked with.
    I’m glad to say that I don’t do that much client work anymore and love the fact that I believe it is more important to have the site rank than have it designed beautifully.

    You’re pretty funny too. Great work I’ll be referring to this every time I speak to a designer that thinks they know what they are talking about.

  • This is a great blog, as others have touched on, it deals with an issue that we are facing today in SEO, love the humourous aspect of it as well. thanks! http://www.syscomminternational.com/blog/dont-make-these-online-managment-mistakes/
    do check out my blog on mistakes people make in online management.

  • I couldnt agree with this more and I do like the way in which all of these points are put across; with a great deal of honesty! I don’t care so much actually about the way the website looks; I just want it to work and be found in all the major search engines. People finding my site = leads = potential sales.

  • Fantastic, Fantastic, Fantastic. I’m a web developer and SEO (well won’t call my self a professional) and I’m glad you brought these points to the fore.

    I’m ashamed to say that so many web developers do exactly what you say in your post. Shame on them.

    I’m so glad that someone see through the Flash thingy. Yes its nice and fancy, but so is a stripper and both will not do you any good.

    Only thing I disagree with is the dynamic pages. I have on many occasions successfully got dynamic pages to high Google rankings. The problem is the parameters. I use C# (aspx) to develop with and find no problems with dynamic pages. It’s the future and Google knows that.

    What’s not cool is having dynamic pages and tons of parameters.

  • The web designers you are describing are not professionals and certainly should not be talking to the same clients you guys are. How many splash pages does anyone really see anymore? Only on DIY type sites and some in the entertainment industry I’m guessing.

    When a web designer says they are making your site SEO friendly it does not mean that it is a full SEO service either, and it doesn’t mean they are scammers if you don’t rank well in search engines.

    This article is like one big exaggerated clichΓ© describing problems from 5 years ago. I suspect that the main audience who found this funny are “SEO experts” who are concerned with money being spent on web designers that could be in their pockets.

  • God love yahoo, very nice stuff. Thank you.

  • ignorantclient

    Quick question for all of you out there. I’m the largely SEO ignorant client that has been paying not insignificant $s to a “I Build Search Engine Friendly Web Sites And Specialize in Usability and Graphic Design” firm for 6 months to get me on “the front page of google”. I’ve just disovered that there are many (read thousands) of W3C code compliance errors throughout the site and the response from the web firm is that W3C compliance is not necessary and would just increase the cost of development. Does my web firm “know nothing about SEO”? Any thoughts would be appreciated.

  • MattL

    Awesome post! I read all the way through it thinking…no no no…you CAN be a web/graphic designer and an SEO specialist (as in my case…many years as a graphic designer before more years as a web designer until some years now as an SEO specialist – so the seo bit is the most up to date – but the eye for design and coding never went away)….Anyways….I was furious right up until I read the lovely bit about treasuring those who actually can balance it all and now I’m sitting here like a cheshire cat. Good post…:)

  • Javitzso


    Any “internet firm” that is not at least attempting, or cannot see the benefits of becoming standards compliant does not deserve significant $s. πŸ˜‰

  • James

    Where the hell do you find your web developers? Straight out 1997 by the sounds of this.

    Splash pages, really? Who would even entertain this idea these days?

    Session ID’s in URLS? I don’t know of a single modern (i.e. the last 5 years) framework that doesn’t support clean urls.

    This article might have been relevant 5+ years ago, but I guess either way it makes for good link bait!

  • A designer we worked with always used images in place of H1 for page titles. I asked them to use sIFR for font replacement and a stare came along.

  • I have personal dealt with several of these elements with some past web designers I have worked with. I am a dentist, but I enjoy being involved with my own internet marketing campaigns as well.

    FINALLY found a good designer that actually knows his SEO very well… such a blessing.

  • Thanks for the giggles this morning, thoroughly enjoyed the article.
    I run a small firm that specializes in servicing the small business online marketing needs, we’re pretty much the opposite of what you describe in your article and I’m sure we equally irritate the web designers.

    My are of expertise is SEO, it’s my passion and it’s my talent. And while I’m happy to recognize the importance of clean professional design with an awareness for usability I am quick to point out to my clients that unless your marketing model involves driving traffic to their site through print and other media a pretty and usable site is worthless.

    In an effort to mitigate the budget issues faced by small businesses we’ve had to find a way to provide the clean design inhouse for our clients and have adopted the Joomla open source community and third party template designers to provide the sites for our clients being clear that the site we implement is a customized/branded template rather than a completely unique design (so far everyone is happy with the results and cost savings).

    This is a solution that works for our firm and it’s clients, however I will point our that my formal education is in programming, and my work history includes years as a Systems administrator (maintaining a data center of web servers). I would recommend this model only to those with programming skills, a knowledge of web servers, specific CMS (Joomla in our case) vulnerabilities and techniques for hardening CMS websites from exploitation and of course a passion for SEO.

    When it comes to the maintenance end this solution allows us to offer the client the ability to self maintain website content or for those who have no interest we will do it for them.

    So sorry to any designer out there that is offended by this business model, and for you True SEO’s look into this option to serve your clients with limited budgets.

    Oh and regarding the javascript issue (at least in relation to navigation) it really depends on the script and how it’s implemented, if you are too lazy to learn there is a really simple way to test your javascript navigation – disable javascript in your browser and observe how your navigation degrades – using javacript to animate the menus can benefit usability and increase visitors time on site. If you can disable javascript and still have use of your links then you should be fine for all browsers.

  • Hi Kristina…
    a month ago, with a suitable keyword, my website placed the 1st rank of the 1st page of SERP (google). but weeks later, with the same keyword, my website’s rank dropped drastically to page number below 30..what happened to my website?
    thanks for the explanations..

  • Great article! We have a blog with similar content and tips on marketing. Check it out: http://usselfstoragelocator.com/self-storage-blog

  • An

    “Sign #2 That Your Web Designer Knows More About the Flight Patterns of African Swallows than SEO”

    Monty Python reference?!<3

    Anyway, I'm a nice young print designer transitioning to identity design for web. I'm really trying to learn best practice for working with developers and SEOs as the majority of my work in a project to project basis with a pre-existing team.

    If you (or your developer) have articles like this one or wouldn't mind lending a mentor-y moment it be a great kindness to me and a step in the right direction for market integrity!

    Best, A

  • Ina

    Great article, Christina – very well said! I enjoyed reading and totally agree with you. Unfortunately there are many people nowadays that “speculate” with the word SEO…

  • Great article and a very enjoyable read!

  • I like the article, and its valid in most cases. There is a misconception that X job must take X time. We must always consider the true geniuses that know how to work smarter via specialized self-made tools that ‘put it all together’ into a seamless integration.

    For example, I’ve been in the industry 12 years now and have developed proprietary tools to make each job much easier. Think of it as using a tractor instead of a hand-shovel.

  • Anonymous

    I am a client who knows nothing about web design or SEO but have been trying to educate myself through articles and youtube videos. I feel like I have learned more than the person doing our website. Thank goodness the work is pro bono. There has been no talk of choosing a domain name, key word content, etc. to maximize seo. From the very beginning I said I’m more concerned about being found on the web versus having my site look “pretty.” I was told inserting a google map on the contact page would be very difficult and time consuming….something way out of scope for pro bono services. I do appreciate the time this person has given but feel that later we may have to start over and it was just a waste. We are one of the small businesses that can’t afford to pay a real designer.

  • Awosome artile …………enjoyed to read. Even I shared This article on my face book page http://www.facebook.com/saraswatidotcompvtltdshimla

  • This is a good list to ponder for those who are looking for a website designer. What good is a flashy website if no one knows about it. Thanks Christina.. I just Tweeted the URL of this post πŸ™‚

  • John

    “If I ate a carrot every time I heard answer #1, I’d be able to see in the dark.”

    This made me laugh – you can almost insert any answer there!

  • Ok, valid points. Still Flash must be used at certain occasions. We have to differentiate between sit for the sake of design and traffic orientes sites.
    I know it sounds weird but there are sites, not focusing on conversions. Art and portfolio sites and also certain brand creation sites are not aiming at converting traffic – they are just cyber showrooms.

    • Hey Veronica,

      Definitely an interesting point. I would counter, however, that artists most likely have a very specific conversion in mind – be it commissions, additional gallery showings, or even added attention. They, too, would benefit from a site more optimized for search than a flash site. I would agree that there are some microsites where SEO might take a backseat to the user experience – for example, a flash game promoted via cereal box. However, those use cases have very different goals than a typical site – and even then, I wouldn’t forsake technical implementation for the sake of user experience. There’s always room for both!


  • I’m working with a web design company in Brisbane, Australia and I’m tring to show them how important all your information is along with link building. Thanks!

  • If you’ll let me chime in about web design and SEO. It’s a lot of work but there are so many tools available to assist you. My primary weapons for debugging are firebug for firefox and httpwatch.
    I am self taught and use a 50 point SEO checklist I put together for my clients that constently evolves to more. You’re right it’s not rocket science but it is overwhelming to the novice person and they aren’t aware of black hatters.
    I’ve been in the business for over 10 years and was a Flash Developer to start with. Now I think it’s fine in small doses but you have to create a fallback to html5. Heck browserstack is a great emulation service to test with.
    I could go on and on. Let me know if anyone needs help.

  • Hi Christina

    I’m in the process of hiring a web designer for my wedding planning site. Are there any web designers that you personally have worked with and can recommend? I’m in the LA area! Would love to hear from you! Your article made me more concern, but more alert! You rock on the article!

  • Just Sayin

    Top sign your SEO doesn’t care about copyright: uses Bill Watterson’s character in her blog without consent.

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    seo web design company

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