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Web Design: Art or Science

Author: Diana Rozenblum, ABT Internet

September 25, 2012




Art: The quality, production, expression or realm, according to aesthetic principles of what is beautiful, appealing or of more ordinary significance.

Computer Science: Computer science (CS) is the systematic study of algorithmic methods for representing and transforming information, including their theory, design, implementation, application, and efficiency.

The Successful Website:

There is no disputing the potential marketing capabilities of the internet to reach unprecedented audiences. Potential is a wonderful thing, it literally means, being capable of being or becoming but not yet in existence, a possible but not yet actual attribute. So, how do you convert all that harnessed potential into unbridled success? Similar to the business plan you developed at the inception of your entrepreneurial dreams, translate your vision into a blueprint to guide the design, layout and goals you want to achieve through your website. Adhering to the tenets of aesthetics must not detract from the functionality of your web pages. Simplicity is key to success, as overcrowded and difficult to navigate pages may look interesting but are too cumbersome for the typical user. A clear idea of what you would like your visitors to see will help guide the direction your website will take and the kind of business you hope to derive from it. What theme are you looking for? Colors, photos, layout and whether you are selling a product on an online store, advertising space, information or services. You will need to determine if you need checkout capabilities, RSS feeds, free marketing tools and so on. Exactly how these components are implemented will determine the rate at which your website is recognized and ultimately the impact it will have on your business.

The Role of the SEO Engineer:

This is where science comes into play. Web designers all too often are wrapped up in the aesthetic concept and not the utility of your website. Therefore, the web designer needs to work closely with an SEO engineer to address the many technical factors involved in creating a website that loads quickly, minimizes bandwidth, is easy to navigate and will attract visitors and search engines.  Websites that look interesting but fail to capture an audience, result from common misconceptions of the technical requirements needed to create a website with a structure that adheres to the necessary architecture of the program.  This includes the use of correct programming syntax, search engine requirements, page size, number of requests and so forth.  Countless resources are available to guide you through the process and get a clear understanding of the numerous rules and suggestions necessary to create a successful website.  The www.w3.org website is a great place to gain some understanding of the process.  Of course, without a strong foundation in the field of programming, applying the advice of these and other guidelines to fine tune your website is not an easy endeavor.  With that said, it is important to have a basic understanding so when you do work with your webmaster, you will be able to ask the right questions and have a better understanding of what you want and what is possible.  In my previous article, What is html validation and is it necessary?, I outline the importance of using proper programming grammer and adhering to the univerally accepted standards of programming.

Keeping it Interesting, Headings, News and Backlinks:

While html validation is important, it is only the tip of the iceberg. A website is composed of a milieu of components that add or detract from it’s accessibility. In this article I will outline three of the important areas you need to pay close attention to in the design and programming of your website. They are: headings, how to keep pages fresh by including rss feeds and calendars, and the importance of backlinks that drive traffic to your site.

Headings, h1, h2, h3, and their value for SEO.

Capturing the attention of your audience with a strong introduction and keeping them interested is the reason you want to include search engine friendly headings, also known as h-tags within your text. Headings give your story structure, very much like an outline gives structure to an essay or report. Headings guide you, the reader and the search engines through information by its level of importance. The official Google Webmaster states that Google’s algorithms determine the importance of the content on a page by reading the page’s headings. Laying out a road map with the most important information you want to convey at the top of your web page, followed by categories and subcategories will keep viewers interested. That is why headings should be used carefully with that goal in mind. The Heading 1 (h1 tag)Heading 2 (h2 tag), and Heading 3 (h3 tag), are the headings most commonly found inside HTML web pages. There are also h4, h5, and h6 headings but these are of little importance.

The h1 heading is the page headline and must include the main theme of the page and the most important keywords. There is only one h1 heading, so make it count.

The h2 heading is the section headline used to describe what will appear in each of the following sections.

The h3 is used for subsection paragrahs of h2.

h4, h5 and h6 headings do not contribute any value to your site. While headings can be used to create a table of contents, the primary purpose in using headings is to create text that will draw attention to the most important information you want to convey.

Why are RSS (Really Simple Syndication) Feeds and Calendars Valuable?

Keeping the interest of your audience means you need to come up with creative ways to keep your web pages fresh and interesting. Including articles, an updated calendar of events and new material will not only keep your visitors coming back, but search engines like Google will find you relevant in the current marketplace. RSS, created by webmasters, is an XML based format intended to distribute content including headlines and descriptions of specific information. The popularity of RSS feeds has now reached beyond news distribution to articles and breaking information on just about any subject. The addition of RSS feeds, attracts the attention of search engine spiders to your site, by recognizing you have added new content. A static site will score poorly in the search engine rankings. To increase your visibility the search engines like to see you are updating your site frequently and including an RSS feed is one simple way to achieve this without the need to constantly update content manually. The RSS text has to be embedded into your text so search engines can read them. Search engines must be able when viewing the source of your page to see the actual text of the news feed, otherwise it will not be recognized. Once your visitors are reading your RSS feeds, you can give them the ability to copy and paste your RSS feed address into their browser or feed reader.  Disseminating your information throughout the web will create more backlinks that will drive traffic to your site.

Another valuable tool is adding a calendar with news about your company and may include updates on current projects, news releases, even celebrations like ribbon cutting and birthdays.  Be creative, your calendar can be similar to a small blog that may add some interest to your viewers. Adding human interest stories may connect you on a more personal level to your audience. Always keep in mind that while you should be aware fo the demands of the search engines, your audience is ultimately the best forecaster for success. 

Backlinks that Work

Changes in Google’s algorithms have caused a lot of controversy and confusion among webmasters these past few years. *Pandas and **Penguins have been running amok leaving the IT community in a flux, Not knowing whether climbing the old bamboo tree will take them to new heights or they will sink or swim in icy waters, temporarily sent web experts wondering if all their efforts to create backlinks and follow search engine guidelines would go unrewarded.  The practice of generating as many backlinks by all means available came to a halt and companies were scurrying to drop hundreds if not thousands of backlinks that could actually hurt their site. As the dust settled, and the realization hit that Google was not an acronym for Ogre, website SEO experts realized the intention was not to arbitrarily harm innocent websites but to create a natural flow of traffic that drives business to companies and not clogs up the web with useless connections.

By using some of the techniques stated above, your chances of increasing traffic by writing and disseminating articles with useful information related to your company, paying close attention to programming syntax, choosing your keywords carefully, and using headings productively, will attract organic searches to your site and increase the likelihood that the backlinks you attract will benefit your business.

*Google Panda was launched February 2011 as a search results ranking algorithm that was aimed at lowering the rank of low quality and thin sites.  News websites and social networking sites were increase, while sites created for the purpose of advertising space saw their rankings drop.

**Google Penguin, announced on April 24, 2012, is the codename for a Google algorithm designed to decrease the rankings of websites that do not adhere to the Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. In order to stay in good standing with the Search Engines, Google will penalize companies that persist in using black-hat SEO techniques such as keyword stuffing (a webmaster or SEO companies place a large number of instances of targeted keyword phrases, in hopes that the search engine will read as relevant), cloaking (cloaking is a method of presenting different information to the search engines than a human visitor would see.), participating in link schemes (building multiple websites and linking them together or paying for links that create unnecessary traffic, adult content...) hidden text (text in the same color as the background or very close to it for the purpose of only being read by search engine spiders and not human viewer), and deliberately creating duplicate content.

 

 Diana Rozenblum is a technology writer for abt internet

 




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