IA, UX and SEO – my presentation

Ian Lurie Feb 13 2013

Last night I gave a presentation at the Seattle IA/UX meetup. Good pizza, plus I got to say ‘toilet bowl of death,’ which is one of my favorite phrases.

I know IA/UX and SEO are supposed to hate each other. What I don’t know is why. We’re all in the same boat: Trying to make information accessible to those who wish to consume it. So I skipped past most of the “We-should-all-love-each-other” stuff and went straight to common problems I see, and solutions that will make everyone happy.

Here’s a quick summary of what I said:

The duplicate content toilet bowl of death

I’ve talked about this before. In the IA/UX world, the issue that most often crops up is navigation click tracking. Everyone always wants to add “?nav=top” and such to their links. But that creates a host of canonicalization problems, causes duplicate content and yes, sends you swirling down the bowl of death.

It’s easy to fix: Use a ‘#’ instead of a ‘?,’ and adjust your javascript accordingly. Or, use CrazyEgg.

The island of misfit chunks

Then, there’s the oh-so-common SEO refrain of “We need to flatten your site,” which leads to all manner of ridiculousness. Yes, I talked about ways SEOs screw up UX, too.

And the designer who says “There are too many words.” Save me.

The solution in both cases? Exercise a bit of intelligence. Design for text. Use typekit so that ‘fancy’ text can still be text. Keep in mind that a page with 500 products on it won’t actually help SEO or sales.

The exploding menu syndrome

Dropdowns aren’t always the best idea. Used incorrectly, they kill rankings and usability. My slides have some graphs showing what happened when one client insisted on putting the dropdowns back. It wasn’t pretty.

Anything else, Ian?

Of course! I rarely see creative, IA/UX and SEO teams that naturally end up in conflict. They end up in conflict because the person who’s supposed to lead them all throws them together and says “You guys work it out.”

That is not how you lead. If you’re in charge of multiple teams, give them clear direction. Tell them you make the final decisions. Listen, and then decide. Don’t let them all scratch at each other like spastic weasels. There’s no good outcome when that happens.

Pant pant pant. OK. I’m done.

Oh, one last thing

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  1. Thanks for sharing this Ian.

    Re the “duplicate content toilet bowl of death” both your suggestions are great. I would add a third, which I’ve employed successfully on none other than a site rife with exploding menus: event tracking. To do this to scale requires more than a little JavaScript chops (I’m fortunate to have a developer with just such chops), but can provide some pretty actionable information on navigational behavior if properly deployed.

  2. Ian, what’s your rule of thumb for the use of dropdowns. When should you use them and when shouldn’t you? For instance if you have a medical or dental practice that offers a number of different procedures, should you list EVERY procedure in the nav, or should you break it out differently. What’s your take?

  3. Mike, I don’t have a great rule of thumb. If it passes the “This is ridiculous” test, I believe it’s OK. If the dropdowns start to look like Space Shuttle instrumentation, they’re getting too crazy.

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