SEO and Usability

3 Jan 2008 - 2:24pm
6 years ago
47 replies
2905 reads
Mark Schraad
2006

I'm running into an interesting conversation with more regularity
every week. That conversation surrounds the usability compromise that
sometimes occurs when optimizing pages, functionality, content
organization and linking strategies for search engines. There is
theory being preached within my company that if you optimize for
search engines, then you are optimizing for the user as well. I
disagree. I think they are two separate sets of logic, that may in
fact overlap, but are absolutely not in harmony. Until search engines
accurately emulate human thought (I have my doubts this will happen
very soon) then there will be compromises to the user while
optimizing for search. Any thoughts?

Mark

Comments

3 Jan 2008 - 3:03pm
White, Jeff
2007

It depends on what flavor of SEO you're talking about. There's the
notion that building HTML pages in a very standards compliant way
increases search engine visibility & accessibility "for free" so to
speak. Better accessibility could be considered better usability.

But I'm guessing this isn't the type of SEO you're thinking about. If
you could be more specific, I'm sure the list could come up with more
ideas on this one.

Jeff

On Jan 3, 2008 3:24 PM, Mark Schraad <mschraad at mac.com> wrote:
> I'm running into an interesting conversation with more regularity
> every week. That conversation surrounds the usability compromise that
> sometimes occurs when optimizing pages, functionality, content
> organization and linking strategies for search engines. There is
> theory being preached within my company that if you optimize for
> search engines, then you are optimizing for the user as well. I
> disagree. I think they are two separate sets of logic, that may in
> fact overlap, but are absolutely not in harmony. Until search engines
> accurately emulate human thought (I have my doubts this will happen
> very soon) then there will be compromises to the user while
> optimizing for search. Any thoughts?
>
> Mark
> ________________________________________________________________
> *Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
> February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
> Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
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>

3 Jan 2008 - 3:08pm
Fred Beecher
2006

On 1/3/08, Mark Schraad <mschraad at mac.com> wrote:
>
> There is theory being preached within my company that if you optimize for
> search engines, then you are optimizing for the user as well. I
> disagree.

I agree with your disagreement, but I will add this. If you optimize for
humans, you will be optimizing for the search engines as well.

Because we're talking SEO here I feel I can safely make the assumption that
we're dealing with textual content. And we all know that the way humans deal
with textual content on the Web is by scanning for what's relevant to them.
So if we put the topic of a page or section (i.e., keyword) in the HTML
title tag or within H1, H2, etc. tags, that will call it out for the human
*as well as* the machine. It tells both the machine and the human that this
particular page or section is relevant to that keyword or idea. I would even
go so far as to say that SEO of this nature is an important part of user
experience design as a whole... because the user experience begins with
Google (or Yahoo or whatever) more often than not. If we're not optimizing
for humans, we're not doing our jobs.

Optimizing for the machine, on the other hand, leads to crappy, awkward
text, and if you ask me is toeing the line between blackhat and whitehat
techniques.

</soapbox>

F.

3 Jan 2008 - 3:12pm
Dave Malouf
2005

Machines and humans will NEVER have the same complete set of usability
needs (if you will).
SEO's sole goal is to index. Human's have many goals when it comes
to information and thus their mental models for how to deal with that
information will shift dramatically away from the type of goals that
are programmed into search engines.

-- dave

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=24134

3 Jan 2008 - 3:25pm
Fred Beecher
2006

On Thu, 3 Jan 2008 13:12:11, dave malouf <dave at ixda.org> wrote:
>
> Machines and humans will NEVER have the same complete set of usability
> needs (if you will).

No, not the same complete set... of course! I'm simply talking about the
task of finding relevant information.

SEO's sole goal is to index. Human's have many goals when it comes
> to information and thus their mental models for how to deal with that
> information will shift dramatically away from the type of goals that
> are programmed into search engines.

Yes, humans have many goals about why they want a piece of information and
will consume it in different ways and take different actions based upon
it... but in order to do any of that they have to find it first.

I would modify your statement to say that SEO's main goal is to get stuff
found. Humans, while we may have larger macro-goals, will inevitably have at
least a micro-goal of "finding relevant information," ESPECIALLY in the
context of the Web. Google's macro-goal is "finding relevant information,"
and to do that it does its best to mimic how humans determine relevance: a)
do lots of other humans think it's relevant? b) does it mention the topic
(keyword) a lot? c) does the topic (keyword) appear in places that are
supposed to communicate relevance to humans? And so on...

F.

3 Jan 2008 - 3:28pm
Todd Roberts
2005

To pose a tangential question, if you have a design optimized for the user
but nobody comes across it, is the design successful? Assuming that SEO and
user optimization won't lead to identical designs, is there a tradeoff that
can be made between a design's findability (SEO) and its user optimization?
The overall effects would be measurable using whatever success measures the
business is interested in - conversions, stickiness, etc.

3 Jan 2008 - 3:34pm
Dave Malouf
2005

I disagree with your assumptions.
Mental models are a core level of HOW I want to find something.

Let's take this off the web for a moment.
One of the things that DOESN'T work about Fresh Direct is that it is
searched based. However when people shop for groceries they are
browser based (hunting & foraging). Google can't help you there. So if
I want to design a browsing system SEO is actually irrelevant, b/c
"engines" are irrelevant from user mental models.

-- dave

On Jan 3, 2008 4:25 PM, Fred Beecher <fbeecher at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> On Thu, 3 Jan 2008 13:12:11, dave malouf <dave at ixda.org> wrote:
> > Machines and humans will NEVER have the same complete set of usability
> > needs (if you will).
>
> No, not the same complete set... of course! I'm simply talking about the
> task of finding relevant information.
> > SEO's sole goal is to index. Human's have many goals when it comes
> > to information and thus their mental models for how to deal with that
> > information will shift dramatically away from the type of goals that
> > are programmed into search engines.
>
> Yes, humans have many goals about why they want a piece of information and
> will consume it in different ways and take different actions based upon
> it... but in order to do any of that they have to find it first.
>
> I would modify your statement to say that SEO's main goal is to get stuff
> found. Humans, while we may have larger macro-goals, will inevitably have at
> least a micro-goal of "finding relevant information," ESPECIALLY in the
> context of the Web. Google's macro-goal is "finding relevant information,"
> and to do that it does its best to mimic how humans determine relevance: a)
> do lots of other humans think it's relevant? b) does it mention the topic
> (keyword) a lot? c) does the topic (keyword) appear in places that are
> supposed to communicate relevance to humans? And so on...
>
> F.

--
David Malouf
http://synapticburn.com/
http://ixda.org/
http://motorola.com/

3 Jan 2008 - 3:57pm
Jeff Seager
2007

Search engine optimization is one area in which I expect our progress
toward standards-compliance and good structure to pay major dividends
and time savings.

Increasingly, search engines are biased away from deliberate
manipulations (like metatags) in favor of the actual content of the
page. Semantically structured pages benefit by being very accessible
to searchbots, but only if the semantics are well designed. Pages
that rely too exclusively on CSS layout (you'll know them by their
abundant and tags), without adequate semantic structure in the page
markup, also suffer. Pages with abundant Flash and javascript will be
indexed well if their essential content is described as required by
the HTML/XHTML spec in effect on that page.

We used to spend inordinate amounts of time and attention on keywords
in the metatags, and other SEO gimmicks; I suppose some people still
do. But in the past year or two it's become clear to me that I have
more success with search engines if I give each page a unique and
meaningful title and assure that all headings are contextually
meaningful. It helps too if the text on all pages follows the
"inverted pyramid" model familiar to journalists. If you do all
that, which is pretty simple, you can be reasonably sure you'll be
appropriately indexed and also fairly accessible to assistive
technologies (of which searchbots are only one example). All this
serves the user well, too.

So I guess my bottom line position at this moment in time is that SEO
now relies on semantic structure and other good design principles, and
is not the separate consideration it once was. I also think that's
the way it should be.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=24134

3 Jan 2008 - 4:09pm
Mark Schraad
2006

Todd,

You are of course right. To design a site with no regard for how
people might find it... in other words to not pay attention to
optimization is just irresponsible. The problem for me is more about
the culture that I work (AOL) than a realistic argument regarding
SEO. Until 18 months ago we were not a true open web environment and
very little attention was paid to search engines. Now, it is like
finding free money. At the moment many design decisions are trumped
by search potential for expanding our user base (which remarkably, is
rapidly expanding). So I am always looking to fortify my defense of
the user experience.

Mark

On Jan 3, 2008, at 4:28 PM, Todd Roberts wrote:

> To pose a tangential question, if you have a design optimized for
> the user
> but nobody comes across it, is the design successful? Assuming that
> SEO and
> user optimization won't lead to identical designs, is there a
> tradeoff that
> can be made between a design's findability (SEO) and its user
> optimization?
> The overall effects would be measurable using whatever success
> measures the
> business is interested in - conversions, stickiness, etc.
>

3 Jan 2008 - 4:34pm
Fred Beecher
2006

On 1/3/08, David Malouf <dave at ixda.org> wrote:
>
>
> Let's take this off the web for a moment.

Erm. You can't take SEO off the Web. : )

One of the things that DOESN'T work about Fresh Direct is that it is
> searched based. However when people shop for groceries they are
> browser based (hunting & foraging). Google can't help you there. So if
> I want to design a browsing system SEO is actually irrelevant, b/c
> "engines" are irrelevant from user mental models.

Browsing is a completely different situation. For example, I hate trying to
find movies at Netflix because I usually don't know exactly what I'm looking
for. I much prefer going to a movie rental store and just wandering through
the aisles until something strikes me. In that situation, recommendations
and other browsing hacks just don't quite do it for me... they don't match
the experience of being able to scan through a floor-to-ceiling stack of
movies.

It sounds like you're looking at human tasks from a much higher
perspective... yes, information finding does not necessarily imply use of
the Web, but when it does, optimizing Web content for human consumption will
also make it more palatable to the machines. Jeff said this much more
eloquently in his comment about SEO being based on "semantic structure and
other good design principles." That's really all we're talking about here.

F.

3 Jan 2008 - 5:36pm
bminihan
2007

I mentioned one SEO technique as a usability problem a few weeks back
(building "filler" content pages for the sole purpose of driving traffic to
a web site, regardless of the value of the content itself), and recently
raised another issue from our SEO: tweaking the page title to elicit more
keyword matches. Essentially, the advice goes that you add your tagline to
your page title, on the premise that search engines are more likely to
consider that part of your page body (it's a variance of the "pad your
keyword metadata tag principle" that no longer works). The problem arises
when your tagline, placed at the front of the title, prevents anyone from
determining what page they're on, either in Favorites or their Windows
toolbar. I raised the issue as a usability concern, but we're rebuilding
our site, so I plan to correct the "bug" in the new release coming soon.

So yes, I agree that SEO strategies, followed blindly, can work at
cross-purposes with usability. Careful consideration and integration of
both should work out well, though, as long as everyone is willing to listen
to each other (heaven forbid =]).

Bryan
http://www.bryanminihan.com

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Mark
Schraad
Sent: Thursday, January 03, 2008 3:25 PM
To: ixda Discuss
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] SEO and Usability

I'm running into an interesting conversation with more regularity
every week. That conversation surrounds the usability compromise that
sometimes occurs when optimizing pages, functionality, content
organization and linking strategies for search engines. There is
theory being preached within my company that if you optimize for
search engines, then you are optimizing for the user as well. I
disagree. I think they are two separate sets of logic, that may in
fact overlap, but are absolutely not in harmony. Until search engines
accurately emulate human thought (I have my doubts this will happen
very soon) then there will be compromises to the user while
optimizing for search. Any thoughts?

Mark
________________________________________________________________
*Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/

________________________________________________________________
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To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
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3 Jan 2008 - 5:48pm
Mark Schraad
2006

If you have a choice... one being a headline and the other being a
page descriptor (similar words to what a person might enter in a
search engine), then it makes complete sense to tag the description
as H1 and not the headline. Where we often have to have the seo vs
usability conversations is in regard to multiple H2 tags where there
is a constant word, paired with a second word variable... as in 'used
trek bikes', 'used schwinn bikes', 'used cannondale bikes', etc.
Though there are ways to adjust the visual presentation so that it is
not horrible to the user without going black hat.

I noticed that Patagonia hides its search keywords at the bottom of
the page with a mouse over reveal. Anyone know how this does not get
them into trouble?

Mark

On Jan 3, 2008, at 6:36 PM, Bryan Minihan wrote:

> I mentioned one SEO technique as a usability problem a few weeks back
> (building "filler" content pages for the sole purpose of driving
> traffic to
> a web site, regardless of the value of the content itself), and
> recently
> raised another issue from our SEO: tweaking the page title to
> elicit more
> keyword matches. Essentially, the advice goes that you add your
> tagline to
> your page title, on the premise that search engines are more likely to
> consider that part of your page body (it's a variance of the "pad your
> keyword metadata tag principle" that no longer works). The problem
> arises
> when your tagline, placed at the front of the title, prevents
> anyone from
> determining what page they're on, either in Favorites or their Windows
> toolbar. I raised the issue as a usability concern, but we're
> rebuilding
> our site, so I plan to correct the "bug" in the new release coming
> soon.
>
> So yes, I agree that SEO strategies, followed blindly, can work at
> cross-purposes with usability. Careful consideration and
> integration of
> both should work out well, though, as long as everyone is willing
> to listen
> to each other (heaven forbid =]).
>
> Bryan
> http://www.bryanminihan.com
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
> [mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf
> Of Mark
> Schraad
> Sent: Thursday, January 03, 2008 3:25 PM
> To: ixda Discuss
> Subject: [IxDA Discuss] SEO and Usability
>
> I'm running into an interesting conversation with more regularity
> every week. That conversation surrounds the usability compromise that
> sometimes occurs when optimizing pages, functionality, content
> organization and linking strategies for search engines. There is
> theory being preached within my company that if you optimize for
> search engines, then you are optimizing for the user as well. I
> disagree. I think they are two separate sets of logic, that may in
> fact overlap, but are absolutely not in harmony. Until search engines
> accurately emulate human thought (I have my doubts this will happen
> very soon) then there will be compromises to the user while
> optimizing for search. Any thoughts?
>
> Mark
>

3 Jan 2008 - 6:50pm
Jeff Seager
2007

Sorry, my previous comment should have read:

... Pages that rely too exclusively on CSS layout (you'll know them
by their abundant "div" and "span" tags), without adequate
semantic structure in the page markup, also suffer....

Jeff

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=24134

4 Jan 2008 - 12:51am
Luis de la Orde...
2007

>If you optimize for
>humans, you will be optimizing for the search engines as well...

>Optimizing for the machine, on the other hand, leads to crappy, awkward
>text, and if you ask me is toeing the line between blackhat and whitehat
>techniques.

What Fred says above should be the rule of thumb, accessibility for humans
first lead to better SEO.

Regards,

Luis

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4 Jan 2008 - 1:08am
Luis de la Orde...
2007

Hi Jeff,

In fact, abundant use of div and span tags wouldn't be the problem but
substituting semantic markup by them: a span classed as "header2", instead
of an H2 tag, for example.

The use of divs and spans can be a necessity depending on the graphical
design.

Luis

Sorry, my previous comment should have read:

... Pages that rely too exclusively on CSS layout (you'll know them
by their abundant "div" and "span" tags), without adequate
semantic structure in the page markup, also suffer....

Jeff

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This message has been scanned for viruses and
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4 Jan 2008 - 9:29am
Dave Malouf
2005

I'm not an SEO expert by any means, but reading all this talk about
how CSS will effect SEO results really SCREAMS to me my point that
designing for SEO is a flawed methodology for total success. It seems
the Search Engines actually need to optimize for the real world more
than we need to optimize for them. Yes, they control the critical
mass, but they are also a responsive system in and of themselves. If
people are unhappy with their results over time they will change
their systems to make people happier.

The fact that a technology like a search engine (and a search engine
that isn't even in our design domain) is something that we even
consider is troubling to me to no end.

This is NOT the same thing as considering accessibility which is
about protecting the rights of human beings who are not of the
critical mass (majority), who need protecting by that very fact. This
is about favoring technology over human beings in total which to me is
beyond unacceptable.

I am now officially throwing my cap in the wing of anti-SEO.

Fortunately designing hardware and embedded software means this
doesn't really effect me to much ... ;)

-- dave

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=24134

4 Jan 2008 - 9:48am
Fred Beecher
2006

On Fri, 4 Jan 2008 07:29:53, dave malouf <dave at ixda.org> wrote:
>
> I'm not an SEO expert by any means, but reading all this talk about
> how CSS will effect SEO results really SCREAMS to me my point that
> designing for SEO is a flawed methodology for total success. It seems
> the Search Engines actually need to optimize for the real world more
> than we need to optimize for them.

I don't think anyone here is saying that SEO-focused design is good design.
I certainly agree with you that it is not. What we're saying is that
designing and structuring content for human relevance will have the side
effect of also being highly relevant to search engines.

While the search engines aren't perfect, Google at least does a very good
job of mimicking how humans determine relevance, which leads to good,
relevant search results for users. If you have two Web pages that talk about
the same topic but are structured differently, both humans and search
engines will judge them differently. The page that has the topic in the
title, subtopics in headers, and uses consistent terminology will be easier
for humans to read and comprehend compared to the page that is unstructured
and inconsistent. Similarly, a search engine will rank the structured &
consistent page higher than the unstructured & inconsistent page. So it's
happy times for everyone, human and machine alike. : )

Where the imperfections of search engines come through is where the blackhat
SEO folks get their bread and butter... keyword stuffing, duplicate content,
etc... Google's getting smarter about that sort of thing, though, and people
are getting penalized in the rankings for pulling that kind of crap. I am
*very* against that stuff. I wouldn't even call that SEO... hell, I'd call
it cheating.

I am now officially throwing my cap in the wing of anti-SEO.
>
> Fortunately designing hardware and embedded software means this
> doesn't really effect me to much ... ;)

Heh... This is more a Web IA problem than a pure IxD problem, so that's
definitely true. : )

- Fred

4 Jan 2008 - 11:54am
Rafa Lopez Callejon
2006

The users are the same. From my point of
view searching and reading information
is part of a human internet experience

On 1/4/08, Fred Beecher <fbeecher at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> On Fri, 4 Jan 2008 07:29:53, dave malouf <dave at ixda.org> wrote:
> >
> > I'm not an SEO expert by any means, but reading all this talk about
> > how CSS will effect SEO results really SCREAMS to me my point that
> > designing for SEO is a flawed methodology for total success. It seems
> > the Search Engines actually need to optimize for the real world more
> > than we need to optimize for them.
>
>
>
> I don't think anyone here is saying that SEO-focused design is good
> design.
> I certainly agree with you that it is not. What we're saying is that
> designing and structuring content for human relevance will have the side
> effect of also being highly relevant to search engines.
>
>
> While the search engines aren't perfect, Google at least does a very good
> job of mimicking how humans determine relevance, which leads to good,
> relevant search results for users. If you have two Web pages that talk
> about
> the same topic but are structured differently, both humans and search
> engines will judge them differently. The page that has the topic in the
> title, subtopics in headers, and uses consistent terminology will be
> easier
> for humans to read and comprehend compared to the page that is
> unstructured
> and inconsistent. Similarly, a search engine will rank the structured &
> consistent page higher than the unstructured & inconsistent page. So it's
> happy times for everyone, human and machine alike. : )
>
>
> Where the imperfections of search engines come through is where the
> blackhat
> SEO folks get their bread and butter... keyword stuffing, duplicate
> content,
> etc... Google's getting smarter about that sort of thing, though, and
> people
> are getting penalized in the rankings for pulling that kind of crap. I am
> *very* against that stuff. I wouldn't even call that SEO... hell, I'd call
> it cheating.
>
> I am now officially throwing my cap in the wing of anti-SEO.
> >
> > Fortunately designing hardware and embedded software means this
> > doesn't really effect me to much ... ;)
>
>
>
> Heh... This is more a Web IA problem than a pure IxD problem, so that's
> definitely true. : )
>
> - Fred
> ________________________________________________________________
> *Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
> February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
> Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
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+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
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+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

4 Jan 2008 - 11:43am
Luis de la Orde...
2007

Search engines are just one way for retrieval and indexing information, this
the problem with SEO: it has a very limited technological scope based on a
single model of information retrieval. A bit like a cancer for the cure, SEO
makes pages easier to rank in search engine results but then nobody said
that the page was relevant for me in first page. There's an aspect of SEO
which is very interesting indeed: keyword searching, taxonomy and linguistic
trends, but few are the SEO's who even understand what a taxonomy is all
about.

Many times the purpose of SEO is to put the page in the first positions so
that more people come to a page where they can click on the paid ads for
other pages: a bit like the salmon lifecycle, which goes all the way against
the stream so that they can lay eggs, die, then when everything is washed
downstream, eggs hatch, baby fish eats mum and dad's flesh and when they are
adults they go all the way against the stream again for no purpose in life
but populate the rivers.

The success rate of most SEO campaigns out there are measured by the
position of the web page in the results page, which definitely produces more
traffic (another old model: traffic). It is a surge tactics, which might
work for the owner of the site, but from the user perspective, if you are
lucky to get a page with good content, good for you.

Personally, I don't use Google anymore, I go straight to Wikipedia and then
go to the links they have there. I also use Digg, which seems to me the
emerging model for search, something SEO hasn't thought of yet, after all
SEO is aimed for short-term results.

Nevertheless, there are serious SEO consultancies out there, it is hard to
spot them because there are too many failed web designers waving the SEO
banner.

Cheers,

Luis

"I'm not an SEO expert by any means, but reading all this talk about
how CSS will effect SEO results really SCREAMS to me my point that
designing for SEO is a flawed methodology for total success..."

-- dave

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4 Jan 2008 - 3:15pm
Jeff Seager
2007

Luis said:
'In fact, abundant use of div and span tags wouldn't be the problem
but substituting semantic markup by them: a span classed as
"header2", instead of an H2 tag, for example.'

Yes, Luis, I think you've said it better than I did. That's exactly
the sort of thing I meant.

I wholeheartedly agree with Fred about structure and consistency.
Well-structured semantic markup yields huge benefits in searching as
well as presentation, and all of this relates to faster page loads,
better accessibility and a more positive user experience.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=24134

5 Jan 2008 - 9:10am
Peter Meyers
2008

I have to weigh in as a usability specialist who is sympathetic
towards SEO (white-hat, at least). I've been digging deep in to the
SEO world over the past year and have begun to see more and more
convergence with usability as search spiders become more
sophisticated.

While I agree that building solely for SEO can compromise usability,
that's true of any narrow-minded focus. Building solely for
cutting-edge design or your marketing department also frequently
compromises usability. On the other hand, thoughtful SEO, and the
architecture it requires, can often be good for human users as well.

In addition, I think it's very important to usability that we start
to consider the entire life-cycle of the consumer, from the moment
they sit down at the computer. If a person types a query into Google
and gets a link that represents my site badly and then takes them to
a completely disconnected page, I've done a bad job of creating a
user experience. Understanding SEO is an important part of that
pre-site user experience.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=24134

28 Jan 2008 - 2:42am
Diarmad
2007

> On 5 Jan 2008, at 07:10, Peter Meyers wrote:
>> In addition, I think it's very important to usability that we start
>> to consider the entire life-cycle of the consumer, from the moment
>> they sit down at the computer.

Over the last couple of years I've noticed an upward trend among
usability test and ethnographical study participants to use Google
rather than a particular site's navigation, e.g. instead of looking
for Flight Times in the left hand nav of the Virgin Atlantic site,
they prefer to Google "virgin atlantic flight times". This is similar
to the increase in users using Google for navigating to popular
sites rather than typing in the URL or using favourites/bookmarks as
evidenced in the increase of search terms such as Facebook, MySpace etc.

This behaviour relies on sites having accurate SEO and may indicate
an increasing importance of SEO to provide an acceptable level of
usability.

Diarmad McNally
Interaction Design Studio

UK: +44 (0) 7808 297289
Irl: + 353 (0) 85 7888 085
>

31 Jan 2008 - 9:20pm
Christine Boese
2006

It also may belie user dissatisfaction with the navigation systems of sites
they really want to use, in spite of getting lost or not finding what they
may even know is there.

I know for years, on many newspaper and major media source sites like
CNN.com or MSNBC, I'd try 3-4 times to find an article I'd read before or
saw in print and wanted to forward to someone, only to become so vexed and
thwarted by the godawful CMS's and lack of permalinks or ability to search
all terms, including author, or article text, that I'd just bug out and go
to Google, and inevitably, find the article I couldn't locate on the site
from the site itself, to save my soul.

What if the real reason people do it is interface frustration?

Chris

On Jan 28, 2008 3:42 AM, Diarmad McNally <diarmad at ixdstudio.com> wrote:

>
> > On 5 Jan 2008, at 07:10, Peter Meyers wrote:
> >> In addition, I think it's very important to usability that we start
> >> to consider the entire life-cycle of the consumer, from the moment
> >> they sit down at the computer.
>
> Over the last couple of years I've noticed an upward trend among
> usability test and ethnographical study participants to use Google
> rather than a particular site's navigation, e.g. instead of looking
> for Flight Times in the left hand nav of the Virgin Atlantic site,
> they prefer to Google "virgin atlantic flight times". This is similar
> to the increase in users using Google for navigating to popular
> sites rather than typing in the URL or using favourites/bookmarks as
> evidenced in the increase of search terms such as Facebook, MySpace etc.
>
> This behaviour relies on sites having accurate SEO and may indicate
> an increasing importance of SEO to provide an acceptable level of
> usability.
>
>
> Diarmad McNally
> Interaction Design Studio
>
> UK: +44 (0) 7808 297289
> Irl: + 353 (0) 85 7888 085
> >
> ________________________________________________________________
> *Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
> February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
> Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

1 Feb 2008 - 4:33am
Adrian Howard
2005

On 1 Feb 2008, at 03:20, Christine Boese wrote:

> It also may belie user dissatisfaction with the navigation systems
> of sites
> they really want to use, in spite of getting lost or not finding
> what they
> may even know is there.
[snip]
> What if the real reason people do it is interface frustration?

True. I had exactly this sort of problem recently where Google found
a page I couldn't find with the standard site navigation.

However, what I've been seeing is that with some users this behaviour
becomes generalised. Since there are lots of bad sites out there, and
searching for things with Google works, it becomes the weapon of
choice, rather than the last resort.

Like Diarmad I've seen more folk use Google to navigate sites. I find
it quite interesting since they usually end up completing the task -
just not always using the site being tested :-)

Just one more nail in the coffin of "web site" as a useful concept.

Cheers,

Adrian

1 Feb 2008 - 6:36am
Alexander Baxevanis
2007

Take a look at:

http://www.google.com/intl/en/press/zeitgeist2007/

where Google gives an indication of popular queries for 2007. Among
the top ones you will see queries such as "myspace", "facebook",
"youtube", "tmz", "dailymotion", "badoo" etc. (I have even heard of a
sizable amount of queries for the word "google").

All the above are names of website which would have been accessed by
typing for example www.tmz.com.
So there is strong indication that people are using google a
"shortcut" engine as well as a search engine. Not sure if all these
queries come from people typing in the browser search box or if they
have google as their home page and type it in the standard google text
box.

But I definitely think there's scope for a better shortcut/history
mechanism in browsers.

Cheers,
Alex

On Feb 1, 2008 3:43 AM, Dr. Peter J. Meyers <peter at usereffect.com> wrote:
> I think you're probably right about that. I've also noticed a tendency for
> users to get stuck in a pattern. They visit a site the first time by going
> through a certain chain of actions on Google, and from then on out they
> continue to visit the site via that chain. Sometimes, this borders on the
> bizarre, including browsing through multiple pages of search results and/or
> clicking on PPC ads (very annoying if you're the one paying for those ad
> clicks).
>
> People are strange, but I guess that's what keeps us employed :)
>
> - Pete
>
> On Jan 31, 2008 9:20 PM, Christine Boese <christine.boese at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > It also may belie user dissatisfaction with the navigation systems of
> > sites they really want to use, in spite of getting lost or not finding what
> > they may even know is there.
> >
>
> --
> Dr. Peter J. Meyers
> President
> User Effect
> http://www.usereffect.com
> (847) 708-6007
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> *Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
> February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
> Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

1 Feb 2008 - 6:51am
Art Swanson
2008

It is really interesting to think about this in terms of global
interaction structure. Search engines are really a layman's command
line interface for the web. Very direct access to information, if you
know the right syntax. This is as compared to the hierarchical menu
structure (GUI-driven) thathas been shown to be the easiest to learn
(assuming that the you have the categorization of information
correct).

The improvment in the search engine's tolerance for "faulty"
syntax, coupled with the high accuracy of the search results really
eliminates some of the faults that traditionally are associated with
command-line interfaces. And what you are left with is the speed and
efficiency of direct access vs. the intuitiveness of a hierarchical
menu structure.

Are the bulk of web users becoming "expert" users in which they are
looking for the power and efficiency of a command line interface? Is
the baseline level of web-user sophistication growing to the point
that power, speed, and flexibility (at least in navigation) are as
important as rock solid intuitiveness (not to be confused with ease
of use)?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=24134

1 Feb 2008 - 9:06am
Claude Knaus
2007

I am one of these users, but with a twist: I use a bookmark keyword
(Firefox) to "I'm Feeling Lucky" of Google:

http://www.google.com/search?q=%s&btnI=I'm+Feeling+Lucky

This allows me to type "l ixda", and voilà, I'm on http://www.ixda.org/!

-- Claude

On Feb 1, 2008 1:36 PM, Alexander Baxevanis <alex.baxevanis at gmail.com> wrote:
> Take a look at:
>
> http://www.google.com/intl/en/press/zeitgeist2007/
>
> where Google gives an indication of popular queries for 2007. Among
> the top ones you will see queries such as "myspace", "facebook",
> "youtube", "tmz", "dailymotion", "badoo" etc. (I have even heard of a
> sizable amount of queries for the word "google").
>
> All the above are names of website which would have been accessed by
> typing for example www.tmz.com.
> So there is strong indication that people are using google a
> "shortcut" engine as well as a search engine. Not sure if all these
> queries come from people typing in the browser search box or if they
> have google as their home page and type it in the standard google text
> box.
>
> But I definitely think there's scope for a better shortcut/history
> mechanism in browsers.
>
> Cheers,
> Alex
>
>
> On Feb 1, 2008 3:43 AM, Dr. Peter J. Meyers <peter at usereffect.com> wrote:
> > I think you're probably right about that. I've also noticed a tendency for
> > users to get stuck in a pattern. They visit a site the first time by going
> > through a certain chain of actions on Google, and from then on out they
> > continue to visit the site via that chain. Sometimes, this borders on the
> > bizarre, including browsing through multiple pages of search results and/or
> > clicking on PPC ads (very annoying if you're the one paying for those ad
> > clicks).
> >
> > People are strange, but I guess that's what keeps us employed :)
> >
> > - Pete
> >
> > On Jan 31, 2008 9:20 PM, Christine Boese <christine.boese at gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > > It also may belie user dissatisfaction with the navigation systems of
> > > sites they really want to use, in spite of getting lost or not finding what
> > > they may even know is there.
> > >
> >
> > --
> > Dr. Peter J. Meyers
> > President
> > User Effect
> > http://www.usereffect.com
> > (847) 708-6007
> >
> > ________________________________________________________________
> > *Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
> > February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
> > Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
> >
> > ________________________________________________________________
> > Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> > To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> > Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> > List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> > List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
> >
> ________________________________________________________________
> *Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
> February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
> Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

7 Feb 2008 - 9:16am
DrWex
2006

I think one of the reasons people use Google as a shortcut to find
things on other sites is that it drastically lowers the learning and
memory costs. It's one technique that works the same across all
sites, whether it's a shopping site like buy.com or a news site like
cnn.com. Each site has a different (often radically different) way of
sorting and presenting its information. From the user's point of view
the choice is either to learn and try to remember each site's way of
doing things - the varied IAs - or just learn one way and use it
everywhere.

I think it's a completely rational and understandable decision for
users to pick option #2.

--Alan

20 Feb 2008 - 4:58pm
stephanie walker
2008

Sorry for joining in on this late but I'm wondering what you folks think of
eliminating browsable navigation on Web sites all together and just forcing
users to use a search interface to locate what they are looking for. Songza
(http://www.songza.com) is an example of this that does not allow users to
browse, for example, a category such as Rock music.

I've always been of the mindset that we should provide for different user
habits but if the majority of users are moving towards search only, then
perhaps my assumption should be re-evaluated. It makes me a bit sad to think
that serendipity may be eventually lost.

Any thoughts?

Stephanie Walker
Information Architect
Austin, TX, USA

21 Feb 2008 - 4:03am
Bruce Esrig
2006

There are fundamental reasons that search of publicly-available specific
information works better than pre-built structure.

Setting up site navigation involves choices:
- Which items to make visible and when
- What to call the items

Search cuts across both of these:
- If the searcher gives priority to a lower-level category, the search will
match when step-by-step navigation would hit a hiccup
- If the searcher chooses a different name from the architect, the content
may match anyway

The times when search does not win are:
- When privileges are required to make items visible, and the search engine
isn't granted the same privileges as the user
- When multiple distinct items are called by the same name

This first factor explains why search within an e-mail archive is a killer
app. The search engine in your e-mail has your privileges, so anything you
can get e-mailed to yourself is searchable. If you are able to distinguish
among the items in your e-mail, then they become findable too.

Regarding serendipity, there are three phases to search:
- Specifying criteria (and later broadening them based on actual or
anticipated search results)
- Narrowing the criteria (based on actual search results)
- Selecting an item from among the search results

Perhaps what you are looking for is there, but in a different way than you
expect. Is there not serendipity even in filtering? That combined with
idiosyncratic links within content can give us the appropriate surprises
that we crave.

Best wishes,

Bruce Esrig

On Wed, Feb 20, 2008 at 5:58 PM, stephanie . <ennea999 at gmail.com> wrote:

> Sorry for joining in on this late but I'm wondering what you folks think
> of
> eliminating browsable navigation on Web sites all together and just
> forcing
> users to use a search interface to locate what they are looking for.
> Songza
> (http://www.songza.com) is an example of this that does not allow users to
> browse, for example, a category such as Rock music.
>
> I've always been of the mindset that we should provide for different user
> habits but if the majority of users are moving towards search only, then
> perhaps my assumption should be re-evaluated. It makes me a bit sad to
> think
> that serendipity may be eventually lost.
>
> Any thoughts?
>
>
> Stephanie Walker
> Information Architect
> Austin, TX, USA
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>
>

21 Feb 2008 - 8:19am
msweeny
2006

YAY! I was hoping that I would be able to catch up to this conversation. For
me, it is about control. In navigating to desired information, the IA or
whomever constructed the site, controls the experience with the customer
making step-by-step choices based on what the site chooses to make
available. With search, the user "control" the experience, plugging their
oftentimes ambiguous terms into a box and getting a list of seemingly
appropriate results right back. Google further simplified this process by
taking away a lot of the programmatic arcana (Boolean bugaboo that few were
able to use effectively) and now the "Google experience" drive search UX.

All of that typed, Jared Spool will tell us (fingers crossed at my end) that
customers are more successful if they navigate through the information space
than if they trust the information seeking equivalent of crack cocaine
usually found in the upper right corner of a site's masthead. I believe
that this is because customers don't know what they don't know at the outset
of their search. As the customer navigates through an information space,
their information need become contextualized within that space and clearer
enabling them to make more effective choices and ultimately resolve their
need. That's the Disney ending at least.

Web search used to work that way when Northern Lights and Alta Vista
presented their cornucopias and folks would click around and make
discoveries and figure out that maybe they were looking for the wrong thing
or they gave up on expecting a machine to understand their need and asked a
fellow thought processing biped (hopefully a reference librarian because
they totally ROCK!). For me, serendipity is getting lucky with the I Feel
Lucky button, using search engines to help me find something that I know is
there (i.e. the IxDA website) and will include the search engine that takes
my flailing around and makes sense of it by presenting results that it
"thinks" I will be interested in based on what I've told it so far. I
believe that this is closer than we might think.

As far as I'm concerned, the only time search doesn't work is when we, the
thought processing bipeds, do not avail ourselves of every opportunity
presented to describe our content to the machine. Search is far from
perfect. It is however extremely complex and robust and a terrific tool, not
thoughtful and terrific nonetheless. As for its flaws? I believe that they
lie..."Not in our stars but in ourselves."

marianne
msweeny at speakeasy.net

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Bruce
Esrig
Sent: Thursday, February 21, 2008 2:04 AM
To: stephanie .; discuss at ixda.org
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] SEO and Usability

There are fundamental reasons that search of publicly-available specific
information works better than pre-built structure.

Setting up site navigation involves choices:
- Which items to make visible and when
- What to call the items

Search cuts across both of these:
- If the searcher gives priority to a lower-level category, the search will
match when step-by-step navigation would hit a hiccup
- If the searcher chooses a different name from the architect, the content
may match anyway

The times when search does not win are:
- When privileges are required to make items visible, and the search engine
isn't granted the same privileges as the user
- When multiple distinct items are called by the same name

This first factor explains why search within an e-mail archive is a killer
app. The search engine in your e-mail has your privileges, so anything you
can get e-mailed to yourself is searchable. If you are able to distinguish
among the items in your e-mail, then they become findable too.

Regarding serendipity, there are three phases to search:
- Specifying criteria (and later broadening them based on actual or
anticipated search results)
- Narrowing the criteria (based on actual search results)
- Selecting an item from among the search results

Perhaps what you are looking for is there, but in a different way than you
expect. Is there not serendipity even in filtering? That combined with
idiosyncratic links within content can give us the appropriate surprises
that we crave.

Best wishes,

Bruce Esrig

On Wed, Feb 20, 2008 at 5:58 PM, stephanie . <ennea999 at gmail.com> wrote:

> Sorry for joining in on this late but I'm wondering what you folks
> think of eliminating browsable navigation on Web sites all together
> and just forcing users to use a search interface to locate what they
> are looking for.
> Songza
> (http://www.songza.com) is an example of this that does not allow
> users to browse, for example, a category such as Rock music.
>
> I've always been of the mindset that we should provide for different
> user habits but if the majority of users are moving towards search
> only, then perhaps my assumption should be re-evaluated. It makes me a
> bit sad to think that serendipity may be eventually lost.
>
> Any thoughts?
>
>
> Stephanie Walker
> Information Architect
> Austin, TX, USA
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org Unsubscribe
> ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe List Guidelines
> ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines List Help
> .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>
>
________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org Unsubscribe ................
http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe List Guidelines ............
http://www.ixda.org/guidelines List Help ..................
http://www.ixda.org/help

21 Feb 2008 - 10:52am
Gloria Petron
2007

I just visited Songza and was completely stymied. After clicking around bit,
I had that sinking sensation of "Oh. I get it, that's what they're trying to
do here." And the only reason I even got that far was because I was in
Investigation Mode. Had I stumbled across this site on my own, I never would
have guessed that all the functionality offered by Songza actually existed.

They're borrowing a bunch from Google, which is fine, but they may have
actually gone overboard with the whole simplification thing. Also, several
of the interactive controls are so cutesy/clever that I'm way too conscious
of the hand of the designer, something that was rampant with the
Flashturbation sites of the 90's. As a result, I'm left wondering who the
site is for. Is this one of those "if they're not smart enough to *get* it,
they shouldn't *be* here" sites?

Overall, the sense I get from Songza is that a refreshingly forward-thinking
businessperson got together with a really talented designer and they went
for it. Great! Unfortunately it also feels like a seasoned info architect
was missing from the mix...someone who would have pointed out that however
"uncool" and irritating it may be, there are still some very real principals
about users that need to be accounted for...such as non-directed search.

14 May 2008 - 8:23pm
Mark Schraad
2006

While I am not a usability expert, the topic is certainly a focus
while doing my job as an experience lead. I am sure I am not the only
one who is finding design taking a back seat to the efforts of SEO
folks. I found this article a bit disturbing and am curious what
others think, particularly those that specialize in usability and
usability research?

Mark

http://searchengineland.com/080514-075657.php

14 May 2008 - 8:31pm
Andy Edmonds
2004

The tough part is that so much of common SEO is superstition. The feedback
loop for an individual site owner on SEO is so slow that it's much tougher
to attribute causality than in say split-testing site designs.

At least SEO and usability agree on the futility of over-use of Flash!
Hat's off to SEO for killing the splash page :)

The general guidance that Google tries to offer is if it's good for the
user, it's good for SEO. This certainly jives with a lot of findings --
like those favoring long, descriptive hyperlink anchor text.

Where in particular do you find SEO at odds with good UX?

-Andy

14 May 2008 - 8:38pm
Kontra
2007

> While I am not a usability expert, the topic is certainly a focus while
> doing my job as an experience lead.

How can you be an "experience lead" without being a "usability expert"?

--
Kontra
http://counternotions.com

14 May 2008 - 8:57pm
Mark Schraad
2006

I am not at odds with SEO. But I think the notion that what is good
for SEO is also good for users is a stretch. While search engines
seek to work the way people think, I believe they are still a ways
off. Humans are more forgiving than search engines... and the lean
towards search is a compromise for the user. About.com for instance,
is way off the deep end optimized for search and is not the same user
resource that is once was. I would hate to see other good sources of
information and content go that direction.

On May 14, 2008, at 10:31 PM, Andy Edmonds wrote:

> The tough part is that so much of common SEO is superstition. The
> feedback loop for an individual site owner on SEO is so slow that
> it's much tougher to attribute causality than in say split-testing
> site designs.
>
> At least SEO and usability agree on the futility of over-use of
> Flash! Hat's off to SEO for killing the splash page :)
>
> The general guidance that Google tries to offer is if it's good for
> the user, it's good for SEO. This certainly jives with a lot of
> findings -- like those favoring long, descriptive hyperlink anchor
> text.
>
> Where in particular do you find SEO at odds with good UX?
>
> -Andy
>

14 May 2008 - 9:03pm
Mark Schraad
2006

Within my organization I am a usability expert. On this forum, I do
not have the same level of exposure as say Jared. As an experience
lead I do more 'direction' than tactical work... including
management, vision and selling of the vision. Amongst the hats I
wear, usability is not the biggest. I don't think too many designers,
in fact, are experts in usability.

On May 14, 2008, at 10:38 PM, Kontra wrote:

>> While I am not a usability expert, the topic is certainly a focus
>> while
>> doing my job as an experience lead.
>
> How can you be an "experience lead" without being a "usability
> expert"?
>
> --
> Kontra
> http://counternotions.com
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help

15 May 2008 - 4:42am
AJ Kock
2007

"Where in particular do you find SEO at odds with good UX?"

SEO prefers descriptive links, which leads to some people creating
long phrases which they link.
Usability: I find them less readable and distracting when reading.
They are also loaded with keywords which are vague, but descriptive of
the content you are going to, but never spesific.

Example:
Linking to an article on "hamburgers" by using "succulent beef being
sacrificed on rolls with green and red salad"

The problem is that those keywords could have linked to many other
things like steakrolls, sandwiches, etc.

15 May 2008 - 5:21am
Andy Edmonds
2004

Yes, your hamburger example is funny!

But UIE has strong data showing that longer links work better. See
http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Awww.uie.com+link+length

and specifically the commercial offering:
http://www.uie.com/reports/scent_of_information/

-A

AJKock wrote:
> "Where in particular do you find SEO at odds with good UX?"
>
> SEO prefers descriptive links, which leads to some people creating
> long phrases which they link.
>
>

14 May 2008 - 8:53pm
ambroselittle
2008

On Wed, May 14, 2008 at 10:23 PM, mark schraad <mschraad at gmail.com> wrote:

> http://searchengineland.com/080514-075657.php
>
I found this article a bit disturbing and am curious what others think,
> particularly those that specialize in usability and usability research?

I agree; it is a little disturbing. Everyone who works on products needs to
be concerned with user experience, but that doesn't make everyone a
usability expert. I find the notion of considering a search engine to be a
"user" even more questionable--this is where using the term human-centered
design (over UCD) can help. I mean, where does it stop--we could call a
software client that calls a Web service a "user" if we follow this line of
thinking. Such thinking totally doesn't get the main point--that we are
building this stuff for humans, not machines.

Yeah, SEO stuff can help create better experiences, particularly with
findability and certain aspects of accessibility, but it is fundamentally a
business-centered endeavor, usually a revenue-centered endeavor. It's just
a side effect that it helps users.

--Ambrose

15 May 2008 - 8:08am
AJ Kock
2007

"But UIE has strong data showing that longer links work better." - A

Aaah, you see I have this rule. Under certain conditions anything can
be possible. What are important are those conditions.

Firstly I haven't read the book "The scent of Information", but it
looks very interesting and I definitely would love to read it.

What I did pick up was some contradiction:
"Longer is Better. What is the optimal length of a link? How long
should your pages be? Looking at the data we’ve collected in thousands
of clickstreams, you’ll see exactly how long your links and pages
should be, including insightful examples from CNN and Sprint.com. "

If longer is better, how can there be a specific optimal length?
Wouldn't long as possible be the optimal length?

Secondly, I think people navigate differently when they visit
different type of sites (Entertainment, News, eCommerce or Research
sites) or depending on their goals.

News sites without exception link their whole description when they
give a list of news highlights. News is about grabbing attention,
marketing, descriptive words, etc.

If I am looking for information on a specific hotel and I end up on a
blog which refers to the hotel in a link, but not by name but by a
description "excellent hotel". How does this inform the user that this
link would go to the specific hotel he was looking for.

My hamburger example work as a link, because of marketing reasons (its
funny, purple cow attributes) and not because the link was long. If I
was looking for hamburgers I would have skipped the link, because I
didn't see the relevance to my search.

You don't see Amazon advertising Harry Potter in their text with a
link from "Young Boy waves his magic stick the fifth time". They link
it from "Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix." The first link will
work on my blog if I want to boost my affiliate income, but do
marketing manipulation techniques improve usability? Good question.

15 May 2008 - 9:22am
Christine Boese
2006

SEO can lead to some odd permutations... I'm not saying it is necessarily
"good" SEO, but I've seen it happen.

Example: Jamming up an HTML page title with SEO-specific keywords in the
FRONT of the title, and the actual name of the site after a colon or a pipe
at the end.

Usability Problem: Ultimately, every HTML page title is bookmark copy,
whether a browser bookmark or a delicious bookmark. Bookmarking is a helpful
user activity when a site has great utility, and when you are planning to
make many repeat visits, especially if you designate that bookmark for your
toolbar (or in the case of the Firefox delicious plug-in, your toolbars).

So the HTML page titles get truncated in many instances: toolbar bookmarks,
3-pane RSS readers, any sort of list view.

I mean, nonsensical or generic HTML page titles showing up as gibberish in
bookmarks lists should have vanished long ago, they are EVIL. I used to
grade down my students a full letter grade if I caught them doing it... in
the 1990s. A bookmark is a free ad, after all, and a free ad of the best and
highest quality type. But ultimately, a bookmark is a USER UTILITY.

And yet, with this new crop of SEO-happy page titles, I find myself with
bookmarks that are not gibberish, but are truncated so that all I see are
SEO keywords in my bookmark lists, but I can't for the life of me figure out
the name of the site those wonderful keywords are describing! Makes it
pretty hard for me to make those all-important repeat visits.

Chris

On Thu, May 15, 2008 at 6:42 AM, AJKock <ajkock at gmail.com> wrote:

> "Where in particular do you find SEO at odds with good UX?"
>
> SEO prefers descriptive links, which leads to some people creating
> long phrases which they link.
> Usability: I find them less readable and distracting when reading.
> They are also loaded with keywords which are vague, but descriptive of
> the content you are going to, but never spesific.
>
> Example:
> Linking to an article on "hamburgers" by using "succulent beef being
> sacrificed on rolls with green and red salad"
>
> The problem is that those keywords could have linked to many other
> things like steakrolls, sandwiches, etc.
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

15 May 2008 - 9:29am
DrWex
2006

On Thu, May 15, 2008 at 10:08 AM, AJKock <ajkock at gmail.com> wrote:
> If longer is better, how can there be a specific optimal length?
> Wouldn't long as possible be the optimal length?

I think what you're pointing to is an unfortunate contraction in the
phrase "longer is better." What I take that phrase to mean is "longer
than the typically used one to two words, particularly in cases where
the text is something like 'click here' or 'click for more'."

I agree that the guideline could be expressed more clearly and that
there's no obvious answer to the "how much longer" question, yet.

For example, on my blog (copyfight.corante.com) I've started using
entire sentences or most of a sentence as link text. To some degree
that's because I believe my reader audience tends to skim the blog
entries rather quickly and is likely to miss shorter link texts. To
some degree it's because I'm writing in an informational medium rather
than a commercial medium. I'm pretty sure these practices aren't
wholly applicable to the typical e-commerce experience that UIE tends
to study. But that doesn't make the guideline useless, either.

Best regards,
--Alan

15 May 2008 - 11:19pm
msweeny
2006

And I would agree. All search engine optimization should do is provide the
optimum visibility to the dominant information finding technology. Anyone
who says differently is a quack by my book.

The value add to optimizing your sites for search is that you take giant
steps towards making it more accessible to customers with disabilities.
Granted, not all customers care about accessible sites and not all site
owners care that some customers have a severely suboptimal experience with
their applications because they cannot experience them in the intended way.
And that's the price of admission for the Web that we work in.

There are a handful of SEO folks who have any experience of affiliation with
user experience or interaction design. I'm on of the lucky ones and it makes
me much more effective as a result. If I had any juice left in my magic
wand, I'd wave it so that SEO and IXD and IA and UX were not mutually
exclusive disciplines, that one does not have to survive or succeed at the
expense of the other.

I wish...

marianne
msweeny at speakeasy.net

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of mark
schraad
Sent: Wednesday, May 14, 2008 7:58 PM
To: Andy Edmonds
Cc: IXDA list
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] seo and usability

I am not at odds with SEO. But I think the notion that what is good for SEO
is also good for users is a stretch. While search engines seek to work the
way people think, I believe they are still a ways off. Humans are more
forgiving than search engines... and the lean towards search is a compromise
for the user. About.com for instance, is way off the deep end optimized for
search and is not the same user resource that is once was. I would hate to
see other good sources of information and content go that direction.

On May 14, 2008, at 10:31 PM, Andy Edmonds wrote:

> The tough part is that so much of common SEO is superstition. The
> feedback loop for an individual site owner on SEO is so slow that it's
> much tougher to attribute causality than in say split-testing site
> designs.
>
> At least SEO and usability agree on the futility of over-use of Flash!
> Hat's off to SEO for killing the splash page :)
>
> The general guidance that Google tries to offer is if it's good for
> the user, it's good for SEO. This certainly jives with a lot of
> findings -- like those favoring long, descriptive hyperlink anchor
> text.
>
> Where in particular do you find SEO at odds with good UX?
>
> -Andy
>

________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org Unsubscribe ................
http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe List Guidelines ............
http://www.ixda.org/guidelines List Help ..................
http://www.ixda.org/help

15 May 2008 - 11:24pm
msweeny
2006

I beg to differ Andy. Much of SEO is hard fact. The superstitious ones were
driven out by Google and its relentless drive to create a "perfect" search
tool. Give me a superstition and I'll find you the patent or research to
support it as a best practice.

SEO did not kill the splash page. It is alive and well and successfully
optimized in a number of ways as is Silverlight and AJAX. More importantly,
search is making great strides in stamping out the paid link market and
leveling the playing field between big and small sites. And now search is
turning its attention to video indexing that extends beyond the text someone
might throw onto a page if given the opportunity to do so.

It is a bold new SEO world out there and getting much more sophisticated and
interesting by the day. Just ask Ori Allon. :)

marianne
msweeny at speakeasy.net

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Andy
Edmonds
Sent: Wednesday, May 14, 2008 7:31 PM
To: mark schraad
Cc: IXDA list
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] seo and usability

The tough part is that so much of common SEO is superstition. The feedback
loop for an individual site owner on SEO is so slow that it's much tougher
to attribute causality than in say split-testing site designs.

At least SEO and usability agree on the futility of over-use of Flash!
Hat's off to SEO for killing the splash page :)

The general guidance that Google tries to offer is if it's good for the
user, it's good for SEO. This certainly jives with a lot of findings --
like those favoring long, descriptive hyperlink anchor text.

Where in particular do you find SEO at odds with good UX?

-Andy
________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org Unsubscribe ................
http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe List Guidelines ............
http://www.ixda.org/guidelines List Help ..................
http://www.ixda.org/help

16 May 2008 - 3:42am
AJ Kock
2007

> I agree that the guideline could be expressed more clearly and that
> there's no obvious answer to the "how much longer" question, yet.
>

It's perfect example of how marketing can interfere with clarity. I
understood what you meant, but it was open for interpretation if you
didn't understood the context.

I am very sure that the guidelines in the book have value. What scare
me, is when people read about research without understanding the
context of the research, and then make generalisation based on this
research. One day research says this and on another day research says
something else and that is because of people ignoring context. Context
defines function. I frequently have to argue with people who read
research somewhere and then assume that the results apply to all
conditions.

Your site: Very interesting topics. Read through a few of them. I can
understand why short links won't work for you as your site is very
text heavy (no images to rest the eyes or break the long posts, and
posts in conjunction with text heavy menus becomes visually taxing).
People in certain lines of work (maybe it is personality type, maybe
it is learned behaviour - maybe the experts hear can clarify) or maybe
it is a stereotype to claim it, but they prefer just text. Anything
else to them is a distraction. They would love your site. Other people
prefer visually attractive websites and they will skim your info. I
think a visual heavy website with longer text links will be less
effective, because it will increase the visual clutter. For a visual
heavy website shorter text links might actually be more effective. I
have no research to prove this, but that would be my guess. (This is
obviously not taking in account where cultures see web clutter as
good.)

16 May 2008 - 6:51am
msweeny
2006

Oddly enough, I have just gone through this at work where I am the dreaded
"seo specialists." It is unfortunate that search engine technology affords
maximum relevance weight to the "browser title" and that this value has been
chosen over the title displayed on the page to appear in the search results
page. Unfortunately, Chris, this does not inhibit repeat visits and it does
work to deliver more new traffic to the site. And, in the end, I do not find
browser titles that contain terms that represent concepts on the page to be
any more nonsensical than: Compare Editions, <site> Home or Discover
<product>...the last being nonsensical in the extreme as there is often no
discovery involved.

Search results contain the gibberish page title, now a link, and a
description that serves to contextualize the site (and often badly so).
We've all adapted to this method and it does not seem critical enough to
warrant attention let alone change.

marianne
msweeny at speakeasy.net

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
Christine Boese
Sent: Thursday, May 15, 2008 8:22 AM
To: AJKock
Cc: discuss at lists.interactiondesigners.com
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] seo and usability

SEO can lead to some odd permutations... I'm not saying it is necessarily
"good" SEO, but I've seen it happen.

Example: Jamming up an HTML page title with SEO-specific keywords in the
FRONT of the title, and the actual name of the site after a colon or a pipe
at the end.

Usability Problem: Ultimately, every HTML page title is bookmark copy,
whether a browser bookmark or a delicious bookmark. Bookmarking is a helpful
user activity when a site has great utility, and when you are planning to
make many repeat visits, especially if you designate that bookmark for your
toolbar (or in the case of the Firefox delicious plug-in, your toolbars).

So the HTML page titles get truncated in many instances: toolbar bookmarks,
3-pane RSS readers, any sort of list view.

I mean, nonsensical or generic HTML page titles showing up as gibberish in
bookmarks lists should have vanished long ago, they are EVIL. I used to
grade down my students a full letter grade if I caught them doing it... in
the 1990s. A bookmark is a free ad, after all, and a free ad of the best and
highest quality type. But ultimately, a bookmark is a USER UTILITY.

And yet, with this new crop of SEO-happy page titles, I find myself with
bookmarks that are not gibberish, but are truncated so that all I see are
SEO keywords in my bookmark lists, but I can't for the life of me figure out
the name of the site those wonderful keywords are describing! Makes it
pretty hard for me to make those all-important repeat visits.

Chris

On Thu, May 15, 2008 at 6:42 AM, AJKock <ajkock at gmail.com> wrote:

> "Where in particular do you find SEO at odds with good UX?"
>
> SEO prefers descriptive links, which leads to some people creating
> long phrases which they link.
> Usability: I find them less readable and distracting when reading.
> They are also loaded with keywords which are vague, but descriptive of
> the content you are going to, but never spesific.
>
> Example:
> Linking to an article on "hamburgers" by using "succulent beef being
> sacrificed on rolls with green and red salad"
>
> The problem is that those keywords could have linked to many other
> things like steakrolls, sandwiches, etc.
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org Unsubscribe
> ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe List Guidelines
> ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines List Help
> .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>
________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org Unsubscribe ................
http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe List Guidelines ............
http://www.ixda.org/guidelines List Help ..................
http://www.ixda.org/help

16 May 2008 - 8:53am
Christine Boese
2006

Exactly, marianne. You've just made my point. User experience in browser
bookmarking is sacrificed in your equation toward tailoring an interface
element to be more friendly to a machine than a human.

You've done a calculus that allows you to decide it is an acceptable
sacrifice to favor the machine over the human, but you are still favoring
the machine over the human.

Chris

On Fri, May 16, 2008 at 8:51 AM, marianne <msweeny at speakeasy.net> wrote:

> Oddly enough, I have just gone through this at work where I am the dreaded
> "seo specialists." It is unfortunate that search engine technology affords
> maximum relevance weight to the "browser title" and that this value has
> been
> chosen over the title displayed on the page to appear in the search results
> page. Unfortunately, Chris, this does not inhibit repeat visits and it does
> work to deliver more new traffic to the site. And, in the end, I do not
> find
> browser titles that contain terms that represent concepts on the page to be
> any more nonsensical than: Compare Editions, <site> Home or Discover
> <product>...the last being nonsensical in the extreme as there is often no
> discovery involved.
>
> Search results contain the gibberish page title, now a link, and a
> description that serves to contextualize the site (and often badly so).
> We've all adapted to this method and it does not seem critical enough to
> warrant attention let alone change.
>
> marianne
> msweeny at speakeasy.net
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
> [mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
> Christine Boese
> Sent: Thursday, May 15, 2008 8:22 AM
> To: AJKock
> Cc: discuss at lists.interactiondesigners.com
> Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] seo and usability
>
> SEO can lead to some odd permutations... I'm not saying it is necessarily
> "good" SEO, but I've seen it happen.
>
> Example: Jamming up an HTML page title with SEO-specific keywords in the
> FRONT of the title, and the actual name of the site after a colon or a pipe
> at the end.
>
> Usability Problem: Ultimately, every HTML page title is bookmark copy,
> whether a browser bookmark or a delicious bookmark. Bookmarking is a
> helpful
> user activity when a site has great utility, and when you are planning to
> make many repeat visits, especially if you designate that bookmark for your
> toolbar (or in the case of the Firefox delicious plug-in, your toolbars).
>
> So the HTML page titles get truncated in many instances: toolbar bookmarks,
> 3-pane RSS readers, any sort of list view.
>
> I mean, nonsensical or generic HTML page titles showing up as gibberish in
> bookmarks lists should have vanished long ago, they are EVIL. I used to
> grade down my students a full letter grade if I caught them doing it... in
> the 1990s. A bookmark is a free ad, after all, and a free ad of the best
> and
> highest quality type. But ultimately, a bookmark is a USER UTILITY.
>
> And yet, with this new crop of SEO-happy page titles, I find myself with
> bookmarks that are not gibberish, but are truncated so that all I see are
> SEO keywords in my bookmark lists, but I can't for the life of me figure
> out
> the name of the site those wonderful keywords are describing! Makes it
> pretty hard for me to make those all-important repeat visits.
>
> Chris
>
> On Thu, May 15, 2008 at 6:42 AM, AJKock <ajkock at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > "Where in particular do you find SEO at odds with good UX?"
> >
> > SEO prefers descriptive links, which leads to some people creating
> > long phrases which they link.
> > Usability: I find them less readable and distracting when reading.
> > They are also loaded with keywords which are vague, but descriptive of
> > the content you are going to, but never spesific.
> >
> > Example:
> > Linking to an article on "hamburgers" by using "succulent beef being
> > sacrificed on rolls with green and red salad"
> >
> > The problem is that those keywords could have linked to many other
> > things like steakrolls, sandwiches, etc.
> > ________________________________________________________________
> > Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> > To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org Unsubscribe
> > ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe List Guidelines
> > ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines List Help
> > .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
> >
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org Unsubscribe ................
> http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe List Guidelines ............
> http://www.ixda.org/guidelines List Help ..................
> http://www.ixda.org/help
>
>

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