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!