Web Design, Search Engine Optimization, Data Backups, and Other Topics. Huh?

A non-web designer colleague asked this afternoon which topics a group of us techies would like to speak on:

• Computer security
• Backups
• Computer maintenance
• Web site development
• Search engine optimization

The grouping of ideas illustrates exactly how too many web designers approach a new site. Web design is one topic and optimizing the site for visibility on search engines is another subject all together.

Of course, one of the purposes of most business web sites is to attract new clients who stumble across the web site by searching Google or Yahoo or Bing or somewhere.

But, designers and their clients too often create a web site without focusing on the site’s purpose, getting new clients. The new site is structured without thought to showing up in search engine result pages. In fact, the new site may be difficult to modify to add search engine friendly text, graphics, or tagged information.

The problem is more broad: in today’s world of hyper-specialization, the creation of web sites has been deconstructed into too many discrete tasks, each lorded over by a guru who is quick to say that this or that aspect of a web site simply isn’t in their field.

There are the designers for the look of the site. There are usability experts. There are functionality designers who are distinct from coders that implement the functionality designed. And, different from all these experts is the search engine optimization analyst.

All of this specialization might be reasonable in a design project team for a major corporation. For 90% of small- and medium-sized businesses, the tunnel-vision specialization is detrimental.

Most businesses want to sit down with their web person and have the one expert create an Internet presence that will meet the commercial needs of the business. The business owner doesn’t expect to talk to one person about the site’s look, another about its friendliness to users, and still another person about placement in search engine results. The owner wants a general contractor who will build the site.

At best, separating the topics of web design and search engine optimization is another sign that the Internet is coming of age. It now supports a bureaucracy, or at least a Curia. It won’t be long before there are Search Engine Optimization college classes and technical certifications — if there aren’t already.

But, I question the awkward division of the unified task of web site development.

Most businesses cannot afford a web site project staffed with specialists and, I suppose, coordinated by a project manager. The businesses need a single web designer who takes into account visual appeal, usability, search engine optimization, and all other aspects of the site.

I enjoy seeing a business owner look over a new site that we created together. One where I may have even taken some of the photographs while designing the pages and tuning them for showing up in Google.

My customers cannot afford an army of Internet technicians working on their site. And, they don’t need one so long as we remember the business goals of the business web site.

So, I suggested to my colleague that I would be happy to give a presentation on web design that would include tips on search engine optimization. We’ll see what he says.

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