Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Design? Or SEO??

I came to my current place of employment as a designer wanting to expand my knowledge beyond just design for web sites. I have noticed a few aspects of SEO that can be thought about in the design process and can be completed by the designer, which makes life a little easier for the SEOer.

Designers where blue glasses. They see web design through these glasses and every aspect is blue. Every aspect about a web design that they think about and see is blue. I started training with SEO and was told how to start optimizing pages. When I was given my first page, I was handed my standard issue yellow SEO glasses.

"Everything I see will be yellow," I thought.

But everything wasn't yellow.

"Oh! By yellow, they meant green. I'm supposed to see everything as green," I later decided.

I forgot that I was still wearing my blue designer glasses when I put on my yellow SEO glasses. I started seeing what holes in the sites needed to be filled with SEO and what needed to be fixed design wise in order for the design to flow. There were a couple mistakes here and there in the designs that were not consistent. I also started to see where the designers needed to think about SEO when designing a site and why designers used H1 tags with titles of the pages that didn't have keywords. I started to understand how to blend the design and the SEO together to please both the designer and the SEOer. This is all due to the green glasses I wear.

I speak two languages now. Designer and SEO, though I'm still learning SEO. I'm not totally fluent.

The designers can start doing a couple things in their designs that would help the SEOers:

Adding the Meta Tags On All Pages

Some new sites don't have the description and keywords tags on the pages. It would be nice not to have to copy and paste these tags on all the pages. The designers don't need to add anything in them, but having them in the code would help out a great deal.

Using Key Words in the H1 Tags

Even if the H1 tags are changed later by SEO, it would be nice to start off with them using the keywords instead of having words that the search engines don't want to see in them.

Having a Place for H1 and H2 Tags

Having a standard place in the design for H1 and H2 tags is helpful so SEO doesn't have to mess with the design and add them in. Some sites have these tags, but don't have them on every page. The H2 tag with the localizations on every page is a must for search engines. :)

Having an Editable Disclaimer

It's easy to go in and change something to be editable, but it would be super great if the designer changed this area to be editable after it was applied to all the pages.

Making Sure There is a Disclaimer

Every page needs to have this disclaimer at the foot. It helps plug keywords that search engines love to see!

Adding a Sitemap and a Disclaimer Page

Even if these pages don't have anything in them, it is nice to have a place holder in the site for these pages and to have them in the footer links so SEO doesn't have to copy and save as a page, rename, delete content, add the content, then add the link in the footer. It would be cool to just have to add the content.

That's about it... I guess. Design can't do everything, but have a little help with the tags being in the code on the pages would be super terrific!

Thursday, January 24, 2008


So, I had like, um, gee, I'd say NO clue what SEO was when I was hired at the current company I am employed with. I am now learning how truly important SEO is to a web site, what it is, and why it is crucial for a designer to know this information. I am also learning why site maps and the navigation at the bottom of web sites are important. They not only help with the usability of a site, but they also help with the positioning of a site. Spiders, no, not the real ones, look for as many keywords in a site as the person types in to a search engine. If the words in the navigation, the content, the links at the bottom of the page, and the site map all have spots where those words are used, then the site is going to be rated better in the search. These are things that a web designer can use when designing the site. An optimizer can go in and add these things, but it's easier if the designer does it. I have learned a lot in the past two days and the most important thing I've learned is that most of these optimizing tactics can be done in the design portion of the process... So, that's what I'm probably going to be doing if and when I start designing.

A few important SEO thingies that I've learned are:

Uses H1 and H2 tags.
Have outside links to your page.
Use title tags.
Use meta description tags.
Use links at the bottom of the pages.
Use disclaimers with key words.
Use the keyword tags (not really important, but may as well use 'em!)
Use word navigation instead of images.
Use alt tags for the images.
Links to other sites within content.
Repeat your keywords.

That's about it for now. More to come, I'm sure. Learning TONS!!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Well, CRAP!

So, I obviously forgot to do my weekly post. I'm going to chalk it up due to my mental state this past week and a half. I couldn't think straight. But I'm just fine now!! So, no more excuses.

Slicing: Not Just a Sliver in Web Knowledge

Slicing is really important. It's no small thing. I have done slicing before and am kinda able to wrap my head around what needs to be sliced and what doesn't and where to slice, but it is something I need to work on. I assumed I could just use solid shapes made from coding laid on top of each other to make up my background, but it's better to take a small sliver of the solid shape with the border and have it repeat. I thought the solid shape with the border would be better suited as two different size rectangles, if that makes sense. Not sure why I didn't think of taking a small sliver and reapeating it. It's that kind of thinking that I need to start doing. I have the basics covered, but slicing takes a new approach to thinking. You have to be creative to get the images to be the smallest they can be in order to have the page load quickly.

I know that alt takes are important in web design. It is important to have a description for your images for a couple reasons. Below is a list that I found at

1. For people with low bandwidth connections, who may opt not to load graphics
2. For people using handheld devices
3. For people with disabilities who use assistive technology, such as refreshable braille displays or screen readers
4. For people using a pay per transferred data connection
5. Search engine optimization: most search engines interpret the meaning of objects by analysing their alt attribute

I didn't realize that the naming of each images is just as important with search engines. I knew it was important so you, as the designer and for other people working on the site, can understand what each image is or at least have some clue to what it might be. I didn't know that search engines look at the titles of images and use that information when choosing what sites to display in the search results. Good to know, I say. Optimization is extremely important to a site. If it isn't optimized properly, then not as many people will see the site. Interesting, huh? Important stuff to pay attention to.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

You might need glasses if...

I design with 11pt fonts!! Oops. I just learned a valuable lesson. Print is not web. Wed design requires a larger point size... better yet, it requires a larger pixel size. Designing with 11pt fonts requires the user to get out his or her glasses and then become frustrated and leave the site. That is not a good thing. I need to pay attention to my point... er... pixel size and my leading for the best readability on the web. 14, I was told, is a good pixel size to use for copy on a web page. That seems totally large to me, but my mind is more on the print design then on the web end of things.

I have a tendency to design more geometrically than flowy or unique in shapes. I am trying to learn to think in a different realm then I am used to. My favorite art/design movement is Russian Constructivism. I enjoy this movement not only for the art and design elements, but for the politics as well. Moving along, because I enjoy this movement, I tend to design with those elements found in the movement. Geometric in thought and production. I would like to learn to see in the way a fellow classmate sees. His designs are always different and unique. I do not understand how he can come up with all these designs that look so completely different while I have every design so... blah in a sense. Someone commented on one of my designs saying, "It looks like a cat peed on it." Now, he meant that as the color yellow, which wasn't used anywhere else in the site other than in the roll over of the navigation, looked foreign and out of place, but it sums up how I feel about my design work. I need more practice. I need to research more. I need help. I love having the feedback and hope to grow in my design and have less sites look as if some carbon based mammal urinated all over my work... Blue will be the new yellow. I hate yellow. I'm done with it. I'm so totally over it that it's just super crazy.

And scene.

Next week: Confidence in my work!!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Lesson Learned... and now moving on.

I learned what I believe to be an important lesson. I spent a long time searching for the perfect photograph and I drew a sketch of what I wanted to do for the redesign of the Denver Women's Choir. I thought it was a great idea, but I didn't get to finish the design because I caught a really bad cold that knocked me down for a week and a half and then I got the stomach flu (no tears, please). So, I had to put the whole redesigning thing on hold. I started to feel a little better yesterday when I realized that companies usually update their sites after a major holiday. Grrrr. I hadn't taken a screen shot of the site nor had I written down what the site said before they updated it after Christmas. So now, I have to redesign my redesign! My own fault. I know now to take a screen shot so I won't have to spend time redesigning. It won't be too bad because the design is meant to change with each upcoming event that the choir wants to advertise. The sad part is that I had this awesome design going for the Christmas concert that I now have to scrap and come up with a different idea for the next event they are putting on. Good lesson to learn, bad timing. :) It'll get done. It always gets done, stomach flu or not!!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Geeze... Running out of time!

Quick post. I have to get to the airport... always rushed, I, guess. Anyway. One of the hardest things to design are redesigns. It is exciting to get the chance to make something look "better," but you never really know if what you are designing is better or if it is just your taste and you don't particularly like the taste of the other designer's work. I noticed that I get really excited to design anything wether it is a full page ad, a debit card, or a redesign website for school. I just like creating and I hope that I do not lose that excitment... Max says, "HI," and that we need to get to the airport. 3 year olds are sooooo intelligent. I believe I have an awesome idea for a chior site redesign. Scared it won't go over in class as well as it is in my head.

More posts to come that hopefully will be of some interest.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Great News... Kinda.

Well, I got my car back... finally. Back to shifting. Totally stoked, but I'm back to not having a radio. So, I haven't listened to NPR in a long time. This means that I don't really have anything to write about. I'm plugging away trying to look for a new job and learning how to redesign websites. It's kinda hard, but very interesting. I think, "I can totally do better than that." Then when I'm "doing better than that" I think, "Crap, this isn't so easy." The good news is that anything I do HAS to be better than theirs! :) (No offense to the people that created them.) I really enjoy looking at other people's websites and trying to do what I think they have done but in a completely different way. This way, I can design in a different style and not be copying what other's have done and I can learn from it... If that makes sense.

I am getting sick and my head is cloudy. So, this is ridiculously short. I'll turn on NPR over the break and come up with an entry that'll blow your socks off... This statement was in no way intended to be taken literally and may or may not match the opinions of my co students, parents, or affiliates.

Thank you.