Last month I conducted an email survey asking one simple question: Given the choice, which of the following is more important for your business website? There were only two possible answers: Your website’s design, or search engine rankings. Here are the results:

Search Engine Rankings: 80.5%

Website Design: 20.5%

Although the survey was unscientific, the results show that website owners clearly understand the importance of search engine rankings. With few exceptions, I believe search engine rankings are the most urgent factor contributing to business website success. Simply put, if people can’t find you, it really doesn’t matter how great your website looks. That’s not to say website design isn’t important. It’s vital. However, it is easy to get wrapped up in design and put everything else on hold. Here, we design around search. By that, I mean literally putting ranking factors above design elements and publishing content around specific search terms. We predict visitor volume based on specific keyword rankings and known search volumes. Our goals for design are to provide an elegant, polished, branded experience for users that is lightening fast on any device. That happens to be Google’s goal too, so favor is being given to sites that meet these criteria. In many ways, I think it’s time to rethink design. In the old days, the goal was to keep the total weight of a webpage under 100K. Even better, under 65K. As broadband became widespread, that kind of went out the window, although I personally never bought into the idea that a page could be as big as you want. With something like 2/3 of Internet searches being conducted on mobile devices, that 100K limit makes a lot of sense. So, while web design is critical, it is important to keep things in perspective. Rankings and user experience are what drive sales. Design complexity is fun, but frequently stands in the way of other critical goals.