How to Create User Centric Web Design for Better SEO

Website visitor searching for products

It’s a web designer’s dilemma. Should you base your website’s structure and page content on what search engines want, or what website visitors want? The answer is that they are one in the same. Search engines want to give their users the best match to what they are searching for, so creating user centric web design makes sense for SEO (search engine optimization).

Designing a user centric (sometimes called user centered or life stage) website is different than making your website user friendly. All websites should be user friendly, ie. easy to navigate and browse-able. In this article, I’m using the term user centric to mean creating pages for specific visitor types.

As an example, I’ll show you the structure of a simple 5-page website for Gloria’s Bakery.

Traditional Website Structure

Traditional websites are organized using familiar categories. These categories are used on millions of websites and can make it easy for the visitor to find things on your site once they get there. However, the categories aren’t compelling, nor do they give enough specific information about your company to engage a visitor or to allow a search engine to confirm a search match.

Traditional Website Structure

Traditional Home Pages

The home page is like an advertisement, enticing visitors with offers in order to drive traffic inside the website. It is flashy with a lot of images, and brief so that the offers are “above the fold.” Most of the key information about products and services is not on the home page, but deeper into the website.

Traditional Inside Pages

Once inside the website, the visitor can see the different product and service types. Pages are arranged from general to specific. Example, you might have to click on Products, then click on Cakes, to see information about various cakes for birthdays, weddings, events, etc. The specific product that the visitor is searching for may be hidden at the third level or deeper.

User Centric Website Structure

Organizing a user centric website starts with determining who is searching online to find your products and what keywords they are using to do the search. There are ”landing pages” personalized for each type of website visitor.

User Centric Web Design

User Centric Landing Pages

The landing pages are at the second level of the website to let search engines know of their importance. They are optimized with keywords for each type of visitor and include an action item such as “Make an appointment for a wedding cake tasting” or “Download our wholesale baked goods menu.” These action items are used by the website owner to measure the success of marketing to each visitor type. Landing pages may also contain offers that are for the specific visitor type, unlike traditional website design where offers are most often only on the home page or temporary promotional pages.

User Centric Home Page

The home page is the magic page since they are 80 to 90% of search results. Images at the top of the page are used to appeal to humans, but the home page should also be loaded with content to feed the search engines. A main heading (h1 tag) should contain your main, general keywords, not your company name or a advertising slogan. Secondary headings (h2 tags) should contain keywords for each visitor type and be supported with paragraph text and links to the landing pages.

Product Centric Website Structure

If your website only has one or two visitor types but many products, it might be advantageous to use a product centric structure instead. The same principles apply to product landing pages.

Product Centric

Helping Search Engines Help People

The key idea behind SEO is not about computers indexing data, it’s about helping people find the information they are looking for. User centric web design merely makes this match easier.

 

Gloria Wadzinski

About Gloria Wadzinski

Gloria Wadzinski is a multimedia designer specializing in graphic design, website design and video production. She currently lives in Boulder, Colorado. View Gloria's contact information and portfolio at http://gloriaw.net.
Design, Web Development, Permalink

2 Responses to How to Create User Centric Web Design for Better SEO

  1. dana says:

    this is a SUPER post. thank you, thank you, thank you.

    it really helped my clear up my thinking on how to structure.

  2. Hi, Gloria! This is an excellent post and I’m happy to retweet it to my followers and pass the info on to my clients as well! Thanks for nudging me to take time out to re-think my own site, too!

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