SEO vs UI Design - The Next Form Vs Function Debate
In SEO vs. UI lies the next competing debate that erupts right where we left off with the classic architectural dispute.
I remember witnessing the argument. It was something I will never forget. My professor, dark hair, graying on the sides, probably in his late 50’s walked back and fourth from the edges of the room. His left hand was twitching, and it seemed his pen was going to slip out because of how hard he was gripping it.
It was here that he listened to the student body, all Masters in Architecture students, their consensus suggesting that function clearly dominated form in today’s world. His beaty eyes gazed into the back of my peer’s head when he spoke, “architecture is a simply a luxury these days. You don’t need an architect to design much anymore, and if you say you want a full ‘custom approach’ you’ll be paying a pretty penny. Today, you can purchase pre-made templates for common structures, and have a geo-tech or structural engineer sign off on site prep and usability.”
So are we, right now, to conclude that an architect’s days numbered, especially with programs and algorithms like Revit or Sketchup. Maybe. Most of an studio related educational career means choosing facade materials or a “look”, sifting from a library of pre-made objects and the arguing with the engineer why we want it done that way. 3 weeks later it looks nothing like your intentions and you compromise by “making due”, adding some paint here or there.
Likewise, what is the role of any designer these days?
My love of my life and I aren’t talking anymore. His need for SEO and meta data violates any landing page I do. Apart from building design, I craft web products, wp themes, ect. I am a “front-end designer”, a title that isn’t even recognized in the dictionary, so I have to add a hyphen in the middle of “front” and “end” constantly. The role is much of the same as an architect: sifting through libraries of premade blocks and icons, adding some Bootstrap to it either by hand or some other Responsive Design Platform and then we ship it off to be dynamic. Nothing I do is from scratch and the form is already decided early on.
But during the time of adding blocks and icons and switching my column widths from 2 to 4, the conversation of SEO comes up.
Him: “You need to put the full name of the company into the hero H1 title so that Google can read it, it gets the company’s site to the first page.”
Her: “No, it won’t fit, it will make the title look all wrong, it will be too wide”
Him: “Same with all of these paragraph and their the headers, and your icons need to be sourced too”
Her: “If you add that there you’ll be pushing down the margins and the padding on the next section won’t space correctly”
The form on all of my pages is more restricted than ever. Overwhelmingly, SEO, mobile friendly and other means of development typically shreds organic conventions of PSD and Sketch template to pieces. The daunting ripple effect of having it work correctly means form comes last.
What is a world without design?
When you drive down Highlands Ranch, Colorado and browse all the homes, some for sale some with a happy family of four, what do you think of? When you gaze Themeforest, browsing all the ready to go — straight out of the box Themes. What do you think of? And finally when you look at Boston Dynamic’s Atlas, what do you think of?
When form is compromise, you will get a working prototype. It will function its little heart out. It will be a top ranking SEO genie, first on the page, and maybe the technology will walk? In addition, you could make 1000’s of whatever it is. They will all look the same and work beautifully.
But when form is compromised so is human diversity, the creator from within and the reason why you created it in the first place. Thus, the saga continues and the greatest debate lives on as designers and developers continue to have to work in the same room together reaching for the night where form and function blissfully come into existence together.
Next time you draw up an User Interface design, consider the SEO effect. The functionality behind form, the way your machine works, the method of how the end user obtains your creation.
But always remember the form. Design for humans. Be emotional, be original and create from scratch again. Designers arn’t dead yet. Bring out the why and instead of collapsing to functionality — it is time to fight back and make it work after.