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SEO is a Catchphrase – Web Development

Online marketing information can change quickly This article is 16 years and 31 days old, and the facts and opinions contained in it may be out of date.

What they do:
Web design and development is a key component to any internet marketing campaign. Web developers are responsible for the functional end of a site, while web designers are responsible for the aesthetic side of things. There has always been somewhat of a clash of personalities between these two types of folks mainly because of the character traits that it takes to be good in either field.

There are always multiple ways to accomplish any goal in creating a website. The BEST way is to have everyone on a given project understand and respect everyone else’s job as well as possible. This respect and understanding helps to work through problems in the most effective way. Red tape and political struggles can KILL a website marketing effort. Everyone must work as a team to ensure success.

Web developers are the gas that makes the web marketing engine run. They make things happen, and make the functionality dreams reality. Web Designers make developer’s work attractrive and usable by the general viewing audience. Combining the two professions can help to create a site that has both the form and function that a user is looking for.

Problems with web design/ development companies
I have a major gripe with web development companies: client expectation management. Web development companies traditionally do a horrible job with client expectations, and I imagine with the current state of affairs it will only get worse. If you just build it…they probably won’t come…just because you watched a corny Kevin Costner film, and built a functional site, it doesn’t mean that people will see it. Building a robust, beautiful e-commerce website and doing no SEO, PPC, or other internet marketing is kind of like creating an extravagent flashing billboard and placing in the middle of a remote cattle pasture in Podunk, Montana.
How it might change:
Web developers will be forced to learn more about index-ability, how search engine spiders work, and on-page optimization. If they cannot learn this, their development efforts are mainly in vain (unless they are REALLY fun and entertaining to them and their friends). Web designers will be forced to learn more about usability and conversion along with their design skills. If the client can’t or doesn’t want to pay the bills (from sales), then the design firm can’t pay the paychecks and the designer goes back to workin’ at Costco and creating fancy Geocities blogs.

There ARE best practices. To be a good consultant, you have to be constantly tinkering and testing with all the new techonology to be able to base recommendations on your experience and the collective experience of other folks whose opinion you trust. This is what I am paid for. The expertise of knowing the right tool for the right situation. Sometimes it’s like bein’ given a toothpick, a patch of tinfoil, and some bubble gum to patch the holes of a sinking sub. Other times the tools and the situation are much better.

Designers and developers have the benefit of choosing their tools from the onset. Knowing the best practices, and which tools create the most cost effective and productive work are great skills to have going into a project. Having other resources to point clients to when the job is complete is a great way to manage expectations as well. Laying all the cards out on the table for a client, and explaining everything to them will keep the clients happy. If the customer doesn’t understand or respect your work…save yourself the trouble and don’t take them on in the first place. Clients tend to get pretty upset when they find out they have to do something over again repeatedly, or someone else (like a consultant) contradicts your decisions.

As a consultant, it is not always a fun job informing someone that the $1200 flash intro that they had design is a huge detriment to their website. Who do you think that frustration usually gets taken out on? I can definitely say it’s not the consultant. I actually do try to defend developers on MANY occassions, because I know it is a difficult and thankless job. Make it an EASIER job on yourself though and manage the client expectations and be honest with them. Don’t try to dupe them just so you can get out of work early on a Friday afternoon.
The solution to managing client expectations

Web development agencies need to inform their clients that creating the site is only a portion of the equation. As development agencies are forced to get better at on-page optimization (or fail from pissing off so many customers), they will understand this further as well. Many development firms are still learning these lessons slowly. They have GREAT functionality and are in a great position to deal with all issues that are neccessary with a successful website EXCEPT the actual site visitors that are essential to success.

Research and utilize the technologies and protocols that are heavily adopted and accepted as aids to search engine optimization campaigns. CSS is a great example of this. It has some fantastic SEO benefits as well the benefits of reducing code bloat, potential for increasing usability, and making a site easier to redesign in the future. This should be a no-brainer, but it is difficult to get folks to re-learn something they already know an easy way to do. Session-ID’s and variables passed in hidden form fields as opposed to cookies are great examples of this as well. Learn about information architecture and keyword research. Include acquiring a few links to the client’s site in your development costs so that your site may be prepared for a successful SEO campaign from the onset of development completion.

Don’t create more problems with your solutions. Don’t make your clients have to hire you to re-do things. Happy clients pay more and create much more of a demand for services. Keep up with the issues that affect your profession, and not just the coolest new .net application or photoshop plugins. Partner with an SEO company and prepare your clients for paying for a campaign so that they can budget accordingly for when success MAY actually come, rather than for when you just THINK you’re done with the project. The more you learn about SEO as a web designer/ developer, the more valuable your services become.

Resources for Web Developers and Designers

Helpful SEO tools for web developers

Past Discussed SEO Occupations:

This is the last part of a four part series on how SEO occupations have divided themselves, and how they may evolve. These are the other discussions on the other three SEO occupations:

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