The online environment has moved at a tremendous pace recently, and there have been a bewildering number of advances in capability. However, we should not lose sight of what the aims of the individual websites are. The last twelve months has seen an increased interest in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) as companies see the web as a long-term investment, making sure that they get the most from the effort they put into creating their own sites. As with all elements of the creative industry, if you look too closely at any one channel or method of expressing your marketing strategy, you run the risk of becoming polarised, with too narrow of a perspective.
Many SEO companies will recommend a bewildering number of strategies both on and off page, and these may include site design, structure, link strategy, blogs, forums, social media, advertising, white labelling and a wide variety of other methods for sending traffic to your site. These can sound very impressive and comprehensive but if people don’t like the look and feel of the site, they will not interact with it, and even worse, they may leave - departing with a poor perception of your brand. Whilst I am not suggesting that SEO companies lose sight of the aim of websites, I do feel that at times the perspective of the end user can be lost in the myriad of search engine criteria for improving organic listings.
Let’s not forget that a great site will attract attention, make the user experience engaging and people will come back for more. Websites should retain simplicity of function and form, guiding the visitor around the site whilst making the experience easy and pleasurable. Great design works around the functionality of the site, yet we should remember that just because we can do something on the digital front, it does not mean that we should. If the function does not enhance the user experience, it should be avoided.
Many agencies have an inherent natural bias built into the structure. This comes from the professional background of the directors, and in recent times many digital agencies have been dominated with technically lead creative’s. This has skewed the advice and best practice guidelines that are often given to clients. Technical back ends can greatly improve a digital strategy, however, they are an enabling component, and not the end in itself. The digital industry has become a little self-indulgent, creating a vocabulary that only people from the industry can understand. Often, clients are left feeling excluded from full involvement and can make the development of an integrated strategy difficult to manage.
I believe we need to strip the language back to the basics, look anew at what each site needs to do from our client’s perspective and produce clear, simple and compelling sites.