The 3 O's of sustainable, effective web design

Avatar of Dave Harrison by Dave Harrison

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Jan 16 2013

So in order to determine if our websites are effective we have to be able to measure stuff. Fortunately we have access to all the tools we need to do this. Analytics software is available in many guises, both free and paid for depending on your requirements. (a quick search on 'analytics', 'metrics' or 'usablitiy software' should put you on the right track, with options like google analytics, clicktale, crazyegg, clicky, mint and piwik all getting a nod from this author)

However, it is not enough to simply install this on a clients site and then walk away. It is not even enough to offer your client access to the results or send some random statistics at regular intervals boasting about how much traffic you have helped generate for them. The value we can add as web professionals is to interpret the results, sort out the important metrics from the gimmicks. Make sense of what the figures show and act upon these findings, making recommendations for gradual improvements to our clients websites overtime. This provides true value for money and should differentiate you from the competition who are in it for the quick turnaround at low cost.

SEO - Search Engine optimisation

As this new decade begins I think that SEO will become the least important of the 3 O's, algorithms are in constant flux as the big players try to keep search engine results relevant and non-construed. However their battle is a tough one and they may be losing it. You only need to look at the panic in Google and Bing as they try to keep their results current. People are turning to social media for real time topics and news. For example recently Google removed their "google business results" listing for the popular search term "web designers". I can only assume this was brought about as a result of too much manipulation from less than ethical web professionals.

No longer is it about optimizing search engine results and the new breed is going beyond just search engines to provide holistic systems that find and track customers not only on search engines like Google and Bing, but on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

While organic SEO will always be important and will necessitate the creation of semantic websites using clean and structured markup and the separation of content from style, only organic/natural SEO will have any value, coupled with good quality and up-to-date content. SEO as it's still generally thought of today will disappear, replaced by the other 2 members of the 3 O's

SMO - Social Media Optimisation

Will become increasingly more prevalent and important (for some not all businesses, clearly it is not suitable for all types of business, depending on the user audience profile). I don't mean just creating a twitter account and a facebook page for your client, but creating on their behalf and instructing them how to make use of a bespoke social persona online appropriate to their business, target audience and culture. However be warned, despite the hype, a dedicated social media presence isn’t the answer to every business’s marketing dreams, and for some it’s nothing more than a waste of time, and potentially money

CRO - Conversion Rate Optimisation

Very much the new kid on the block, but clearly what we ought to have been doing right from the start. The science and art of creating an experience for a website visitor with the goal of converting the visitor into a customer. Applicable mainly in commerce websites but we shouldn't think only of conversion as percentage increase in sales or enquiries on the website, it could also be as simple as gaining a regular visitor to your community or having a satisfied user experience. However we interpret it I would go as far as to say the underlying principle should be carried into all web projects regardless of their objectives. Further Reading

2010 SEO isn't important anymore Using SMO to boost traffic