The Importance of Website Design in Google Searches

By Chris Wadsworth

Published in The Source issue 7

In November 2010 Google introduced the Instant Previews feature to their search results making website design one of the most important aspects for search engine success.

What is Instant Previews?

Instant Previews allows those using Google search results to see a thumbnail image of the webpage design before they click on the link. It is intended to speed up searches and make finding relevant information easier.

This short video from Google gives a good overview of how it works:

 

 

As a result of Instant Previews more browsing will take place in Google as users browse the results rather than clicking through to the websites shown in the search.

Why website design is now important

Previously the design of websites has played no part in search results. The layout of information on webpages and download speed had a small influence on a website’s position but the actual design didn’t matter. With Instant Previews if your website is poorly designed or doesn’t look relevant users will skip over it to other results which means the design of your website is now more important than ever.

Instant Previews allows users to look for clues about the relevance of each page for their needs. Information that stands out at a small size will be important to convey the page’s content. It also means that users will compare the design of each website and those that are well laid out and more visually appealing will be visited more often. In essence website design is going to play a key role in the decision of which websites search result users visit.

Some design considerations that will persuade users to click through from the search results include: using simple site structures that look easy to navigate; having key messages in large font sizes so they are readable; using relevant imagery to grab attention. Strong colours that look good against Google’s white background will also help along with text content that is separated with headings so it looks easy to skim read – large blocks of unbroken text can make content look difficult and time consuming to digest.

Ad pop ups, Flash content and other elements may not be picked up or may interfere with the preview, making the webpage look broken or unattractive in Instant Previews. Because of this website designers will need to review their practices.

Branding for websites

Companies with strong branding will benefit if their branding is incorporated into their website design successfully. Branding elements that are easily distinguished in Instant Previews will build brand recognition, even if users don’t click the link. Companies who feature colour as a key element of their branding will especially benefit because colour in branding is instantly recognised.

Search Engine Optimisation

It is important to remember that while Instant Previews will affect how people use search results and the choices they make it does not affect the actual results. It doesn’t alter how clicks are tracked either. If someone previews a page of your website it won’t show up as an actual click and because there are no statistics relating to Instant Previews people may be viewing your website but you won’t have any knowledge of it.

As a result of Instant Previews more users will review search results lower down the page. The top three positions will still be the most coveted but if the website designs don’t appeal to the user they will get overlooked for results further down the page.

If you are investing time and/or money on SEO to ensure you get good search engine results you should take a look at how your website’s main pages look in Instant Previews. After getting a good page position in Google it would be a big loss if you fail to get visitors to click through because your website design doesn’t appeal to them.

Posted 15 February 2011

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