Well, after the major modifications introduced by the principal search engines (Google’s Penguin being the most recent), content remains king. If this is the case, then why do SEO professionals keep talking so much about topics that can easily be included in the web design niche?
A logical explanation might be that the role of a web designer is to enhance the surfing experience for all users, regardless of whether they love or hate, agree or disagree with the content. On top of that, the web designer should aid us attribute our emotions to the right source by appealing to our full array of senses.
Considering the aforementioned claim, we can only wonder about the real role of design in an environment where content has been crowned king.
The online environment is harsh and it gives no quarter or second chances. Simply put, users form a general opinion about websites within the first seconds, while it is still loading its elements. What this means is that the design of the website – the colors used, the layout of the main page and the way the heading components are arranged – is evaluated before the actual content.
Furthermore, even though the site actually contains the information they seek, the users will scroll through the website until they find an element that truly draws their attention. What we’re saying is that irrespective of the content, the design around it manages what users see first and how they actually search for something on the site.
Lastly, we want to point out that users also have a tendency of evaluating the credibility of the source providing the information. Despite the wise saying that you should never judge a book by its covers, people will easily dismiss or agree with an idea or message based on familiarity and what other people think about it.
The UI helps you get your message through
Here is the true dilemma websites are confronted with today: we all want information rich and useful content, but we are never in the mood to read an extremely long article about the topic we’re interested in. However, setting the mood by introducing relevant photos and videos can drastically change this behavior. Here is a picture of a cute cat you can use when you want it to accompany content on, for instance, cat behaviors.
Nobody is denying the fact that the content sets the overall tone of the website. On the other hand, the font size, colors and the actual font are extremely efficient in controlling what you are trying to convey and leave a lasting impression on the readers.
Speaking on leaving an impression, this is where efficient web design really shines: you can portion and frame the content in such a manner that you give indicators to the readers about what emotional reaction they should experience.
Since delivering high quality content is simply not enough nowadays, websites should consider taking advantage of referrals, useful links and presence on the social networks in order to enjoy success. Therefore, if you want users (old and new) to notice a website, you give them the possibility of sharing your content across the web.
Why? Because all users who enter a website, read the content and leave will generate little value for businesses. In the end, the failure and success of a site can be determined by the follow-throughs (likes, tweets, shares and votes) it enables.
Understanding the premises of the user experience design
Granted, coming up with an astounding design that acts like an amplifier of good content is a titanic task. In fact, the feeling that you get while browsing the net is that as long as it fills in a basic demand it is good enough. However, will products that work correctly and supply a basic demand make any difference in a highly saturated and interactive environment? Not really.
Some web designers have already acknowledged this fact and are trying to convince webmasters of the value and importance of creating a design that can lead to the user’s personal engagement with the content of the sites. In other words, the focus should be on creating designs that have the greater role of supporting the message and goal included in the content, rather than decorating.
Think of it this way: web design and content should work similarly to flowers and insects. As the function of the beautifully colored flower petals is to attract insects for the pollination, the role of design is to ensure the success and thriving of the website.