Aesthetics vs. SEO in Website Design: Should You Compromise?


The reductive take on SEO is that it’s all about doing everything to ensure that a website ranks as high as possible in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) at the expense of everyone else. rest. Why bother to come up with sleek and striking visuals if Google doesn’t care what colors you use or how well the images catch on in your headers?

The truth is, aesthetics play a role in SEO effectiveness, but not in a straightforward way. Google doesn’t care how your website looks, but the design contributes to the user experience and it is an extremely important ranking factor. It is not about meeting a subjective standard of beauty. It’s about presenting a web page in such a way that it fulfills its purpose and gives the user the best possible experience.

This concept of good design leading to good SEO is a mantra at Superb Digital. Whether it’s designing a site from scratch or a single web page, we’ll see how content will be presented in the most effective way for a page to fulfill its purpose, which is to deliver pages and pages. information they contain. intuitively, clearly and in a logical structure for the reader to navigate and consume. In this sense, aesthetics, through good layout and page design, compels users to engage with your content and as such indirectly helps improve rankings. and the conversion rate of a page.

How prioritizing aesthetics can be prohibitive

So you might be thinking that since aesthetics are important when it comes to helping SEO, albeit indirectly, you might want to focus more on creating an aesthetically appealing website. The problem with taking an aesthetically-driven approach to building a website is that it can actually do the opposite and negatively impact SEO.

This can happen in two main ways:

Website performance

In an effort to impress visitors with audiovisual stimuli, you may be tempted to load your website with flashy animations, auto-play videos, and high-resolution photos. Items like this can certainly grab people’s attention, but the downsides can be immense with how resource-intensive these items can be.

Internet speeds have gotten much faster over the years, but that doesn’t mean you have to go all out on a page element load that cumulatively hamper page load speeds. This also goes for plugins which create code overload and slow down the website (we know who you are).

Websites that take too long to load discourage visitors. But they are also a ranking factor.

Page load speed is a part of Core Web Vitals, which also takes into account how quickly content is displayed on screen and how stable a page performs. The more visuals you have, the slower a page loads, which also causes a drastic change in the layout as the page loads, reducing stability.

The problem spills over to mobile devices as well. Over half of mobile page visits are abandoned if a site takes longer than 3 seconds to load. You really don’t want to burden your mobile site with countless high-resolution animations and photos, especially since mobile search has now moved beyond desktop and laptop-based search.


Running after one specific design aesthetic at the expense of everything else is losing sight of what really matters when building a website. Indeed, it is losing sight of what a commercial site is for and it is to generate your commercial requests or your sales.

First, what you think is aesthetically pleasing may not be what your audience thinks is aesthetically pleasing. It’s too common for business owners to assume that they know their customers inside and out, but never took the time to do extensive customer research to support these assumptions.

Putting your subjective taste first in your website design leaves users behind. Ultimately, your website should work to serve them, not you or your business. Whether it’s subscribing to a newsletter, purchasing a product, or contacting your business directly, users need to be guided by design to perform these actions. You don’t want a website that overloads people with pictures and pretty things, which actually serve to distract them from your ultimate goals, convincing them why they should do business with you or buy your products.

Prioritizing aesthetics can mean having to incorporate content into your design. You will have to work harder within the design limits to come up with content that might not accurately express the purpose of the site. Your content should always inform the design, not the other way around.

How aesthetics can help

So far we’ve only talked about the potential pitfalls of aesthetics in website design, so it bears repeating that it’s best to think of aesthetics as a way to deliver good UX, rather than just making your website attractive.

There are four principles that show how to properly apply aesthetics to make SEO easier:


A simple, clean web design should direct users to exactly where they need to go on your website. The less time it takes them to process your site’s layout and navigation interface, the more likely they are to browse and the longer they will stay, which in turn will lead to more conversions.

Concretely, you want to limit your color palette to a minimum, your fonts must be legible and contrast well with the backgrounds, and your graphics must be there only to fulfill a specific function.


Websites have their own visual language. An example would be clickable links usually being a different color, and that color changes once they have been clicked. Another would be to have drop-down menus at the top of the page for the main categories, which are always visible everywhere on the site where a visitor is.

Keeping these elements consistent and making sure they always work the same way makes it easy for users to navigate your site.


When mobile devices account for 54.8% of global web traffic, the importance of responsiveness cannot be overstated when designing websites. You need to consider how your website will look on the small screens of smartphones and tablets.

By incorporating a responsive design, your site’s layout, images and content will automatically adapt to the dimensions of the device on which the site is displayed. While Google hasn’t explicitly stated mobile usability as a ranking factor, it’s something they recommend every site strive for.


A well-designed website can be used by anyone, including people with disabilities. There is no good reason to unnecessarily limit the reach of your website by making it inaccessible due to non-inclusive design choices.

As per the web content accessibility guidelines, your website should be:

  • Perceptible – Content can be presented to all kinds of users
  • Operable – Users can navigate a site in different ways
  • Understandable – Users can easily understand the content
  • Robust – The site can be used with current and future assistive technologies

The connective tissue between the four principles is that they all work to deliver content in a way that users will have no trouble finding and understanding. This is what makes for a great user experience, which keeps everyone on your site.

SEO in the design process

When you think of aesthetics correctly as usability, it becomes clear that not only can this and SEO coexist, but in fact that they are intimately linked to each other. Good design is good SEO and vice versa. These two pillars of web design ultimately aim to do the same thing, which is to present valuable content to users in an intuitive and enjoyable way. To achieve this, you have to know what the purpose of each page is from the start, understand who is going to visit it and what they need.


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