On The Hill: Radar Hill Blog


Balancing User Experience (UX) and SEO in Website Design

Est. reading time 5 minutes

Despite all the technical jargon, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) at its core is fairly easy to understand. It’s really just about having a website that is designed and laid out in order to perform as well as possible with search engines, the most popular one being Google, and therefore be placed higher up in the results when relevant search terms are looked for by people. It’s about meeting as many of the criteria that are used by the search engine algorithms, as well as possible, in order to increase the visibility of your website. 

UX (User Experience) is a measure of how easy your website is to navigate and use for customers. Unlike SEO which reflects on what the machine wants, UX will be derived from customer feedback and personal reflections. However, while the output you’re measuring differs, there is a lot of overlap between the design principles and key features that will lead to both a positive user experience and a website that performs well.

What is SEO?

SEO has become an umbrella term, used to describe a wide range of aspects that go into the overall facets of a website. These include: 

  • The “crawlability” of a site (when search engines ‘read’)
  • How effective the URL structure is
  • Relevance and density of keywords
  • Internal linking and coherent navigation
  • Quick loading times and page speeds
  • How well it operates on mobile devices
  • The quality of the site security and HTTPS
  • Effective title tags and meta descriptions

While SEO is done for the search engines, it should be clarified that the reason the search engines have devised these metrics, is because it is for people. Google, Bing, Duck Duck Go etc. – these are all online services that are dependent on people using them, and more people will use them if they give helpful and relevant search results. 

For example, if you are in BC and search for “Cleaners in Victoria”, you’d expect to find businesses that offer domestic cleaning services in Victoria BC, not chimney sweeps in Australia. So SEO is ultimately about serving the user experience, as search engines are just tools that exist to help users find the results they’re looking for. 

What is UX?

UX is everywhere and can be applied to anything someone uses. User Experience encompasses the various ways in which a user interacts with a product and the overall quality of that experience. In this context of websites, it is closely aligned with UI, User Interface, which refers to the aesthetic design of a product’s – namely websites and apps – look and style. UX and UI are sometimes used interchangeably, although they do refer to different things. For this blog, the focus is on the U part of it, and how websites should be created for users.

When it comes to designing your website with users in mind, there are a few golden principles you should adhere to:

  1. Be accessible
  2. Embrace iteration
  3. Let the user control the experience
  4. Let users know when things are working, but plan for when they don’t work
  5. Make it intuitive
  6. Make the user comfortable

If you want to know more about how to implement those elements, we’ve previously written about the best way to design your website navigation. This will help you create something that is seamless, easy to use, and intuitive, providing a high quality user experience. 

The point is you want your website to have little effort from the user to achieve its goal, whether that’s someone filling out a Quote Request, subscribing to your newsletter, or just accessing certain informational pages. You don’t want this process to be strenuous or frustrating in any way, as that risks turning people away. 

A Good Website Has SEO and UX

It’s best to think of SEO and UX as reflecting the two most important goals of any website. SEO is to convince them to visit the website initially, and UX is to ensure that they stay on it and fulfill the intended goal of their visit. However, it’s worth remembering that the two principles won’t always be in concert, sometimes what’s most effective in terms of SEO will not necessarily provide the best user experience and vice versa. 

For example, a cleaning company that does business in every area of a major city could have a separate page for each neighborhood they operate in, providing a high level of volume, detail and accuracy in key SEO metrics. However, this would be an overwhelming, and unnecessary amount of information for most users and may diminish their experience or even put them off being able to find what they’re looking for entirely. 

A key SEO ranking factor for a website is how long users spend on the website and how they interact with it. A website that seemingly has all the right information, all the right keywords and technical aspects, but doesn’t have people actually using the site, will not continue to rank well in the search results. Eventually Google will realize it is not a website that actual people like, and because ultimately Google does want its own users to visit sites that are useful, a site built purely with SEO but no UX in mind, will not continue to rank highly.

Tips for Optimizing Your Website

  • Ensure your content is relevant, up to date and well written
  • Include keywords in page titles, headers, and throughout the text
  • Fix any broken links
  • Be sure the site is mobile friendly
  • Have an easy to navigate structure

We spend so much time with our own websites, it can be easy to lose sight of how they’ll be received by someone visiting them for the first time, making it difficult to self analyze and identify any weakpoints. Given the fast-paced and ever-changing nature of the online world, these deficiencies can be quickly exacerbated, leading to you missing out on business from potential customers without even realizing. That’s why it’s good practice to update your website every few years, to keep up with changing user expectations and trends. Just because your site was created in 2016 with all best practices then, does not mean that they are best practices in 2023. 

SEO and UX/UI serve as guiding principles for website design, and are integral components of a successful online presence. A well-optimized website not only attracts visitors through SEO strategies but also retains them through a user-friendly and engaging experience. It's the balance between being visible in search results and providing value to those who find you. Regularly evaluate your website's performance, seek user feedback, and adapt to changing expectations. If you would like a website refresh with both SEO and UX in mind, get in touch.