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Keeping your website design fresh and modern is an important part of your brand, but it is also essential for SEO success. Search engines tend to favor sites which are regularly refining their site to offer new features and better user experience, as Matt Cutts recently confirmed in one of his Webmaster Chat videos.

But, there is a lot to consider before redesigning or modifying your website. A good website should be able to feel modern for at least a couple of years before needing another serious overhaul, and you are investing considerable resources into having the site designed in a way that communicates your brand well while keeping up with modern design styles.

There are also several factors behind the scenes you need to consider. Great usability and style are important, but several modern design practices seemingly go against some of the biggest search engines suggested practices. If you aren’t careful, you may do some damage to your SEO while trying to improve your site.

Kannav Chaudhary recently broke down how some of the most popular web design practices of the moment can affect your SEO. Usability and keeping your brand modern are important, but finding the right style for your brand also means choosing the paradigm which won’t hurt your other efforts.

Parallax Design

bagigia

Parallax design recently became popular with web designers for it’s unique way of restructuring a site in a visually exciting way. You build your entire website onto one page, but with responsive scrolling which delivers the content in impressive style. Sites with parallax design are incredibly easy for most users to navigate, as they simply have to scroll through the page, but it raises some issues with optimization.

Simply put, most modern SEO practices rely on creating a lot of content over numerous pages so increase the impact of keywords. You show off your skill and reputation through your content, while showing search engines you are relevant for these keywords. When all of your content is on one page, it can dilute the impact of those keywords, and Google can be unsure about how to view your site.

The key is really understanding when to use parallax design. It is great for product or contest pages, because there isn’t much content on those types of sites in the first place. Parallax design can showcase a product and rank for a few key phrases, but it will struggle with presenting a full website to the search engines.

Infinite Scrolling

Etsy

If you are pumping out a lot of content on a regular basis, but want it to be easily available from a single page, infinite scrolling can be the perfect solution Social Media sites like Facebook and Twitter popularized the design practice, but it can be found all over the web these days, especially on blogs.

If you use the wrong method of implementation for infinite scrolling, you may run into some SEO issues, but the current practices avoid the lion’s share of drawbacks. Most web designers use frameworks such as Backbone or Bootstrap with crawlable AJAX so you can present your information on one page, while avoiding the problems of parallax design. Best of all, it loads quickly, so everyone will be happy.

Fixed Width Navigation

Fixed Width Navigation

Navigation will always be an important part of web design, and lately many designers have been using fixed width navigation to keep their menus in place while users move down the page. This way, you can always jump to another part of the site you want to find, even when you’re at the bottom of an article.

Thankfully, this design practice has very little effect on SEO. Your content will still be spread over plenty of pages, but you’ll want to make sure your navigation widget is indexable so that Google can also explore your site.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, you’ll always want to fully understand the new design trends before implementing them for your brand. Most of the time their SEO drawbacks can be mitigated with careful practice, but occasionally you will find one that just isn’t right for your site. As long as you keep user experience as the highest priority, you’ll be able to manage any of the SEO problems that pop up along the way.

Any SEO professional who has been around for a couple design trends knows what its like to bump heads with designers about the design methods and usability. There are certain innovative design trends that can be wonders for usability, but are completely at odds with standard SEO practices. According to Janet Driscoll Miller, that doesn’t mean we have to throw out both, we just have to be creative with our solutions to integrate creative design.

Parallax design is the most popular trend that runs into this issue with usabilty and SEO. It has actually been around for a few years, but it has recently gained quite a bit of notoriety as designers have used it to animate pages in a way that scrolling makes the entire page change what is being shown. It’s really easier to show people than to describe.

The most commonly seen site with this design style is the Spotify front page which essentially moves layers as the viewer scrolls downwards.

Spotify Screenshot

 

What makes parallax design so popular is it basically allows the site to walk a visitor through a story by scrolling down the page. Google has even used the style for their big “How Search Works” site, where Google tried to explain how it works to the average internet user. It directs how visitors view the site, rather than letting visitors click around at will.

The big problem is that parallax designs are essentially extremely large one page websites, which is extremely difficult to optimize for many search terms. All of your keywords have to be concentrated onto one page, rather than spread out across many as Google is used to. On top of that, inbound links to your site all point to a single page, not specific content.

Another interesting problem is that parallax design doesn’t work on mobile phones of any kind. As mobile traffic rises, that means more and more people aren’t able to use pages in this style. It also means site owners have to basically create an entire separate mobile version of their site. Many companies already do this, as Google did for the “How Search Works” site. Until responsive design popped up, it was common practice to build a second mobile site.

None of this means we should immediately cut out parallax design. As stated before, parallax design is unparalleled at telling stories, and some site don’t have to rely heavily on SEO to drive traffic. There is also an approach which allows you to use parallax design and a multipage site, by creating accomying sub-pages, like Spotify did. The home page is a parallax design, but the links take you to content on separate, static pages. That creates a static URL for different content and allows keywords to be more spread out.

Deciding whether or not to hop on these trends all depends on what you intend to achieve with your site. If you intend to tell a story or direct visitors through your site in a linear fashion, parallax design is possibly the best answer.