You may know Kim Krause Berg as the mind behind a variety of sites: Cre8asite Forums, Cre8pc Usability, SEO and Web Design blog, or The Usability Effect, where she offers her highly valuable consulting services.
1. Jakob Nielson: Over-hyped pundit or legitimate guru?
Definitely over-hyped guru. I don’t understand why he’s so disliked, but I do get why it’s easy to poke fun at him. I don’t go for the "Thou must do this" commandments style he has but it works for millions of people the same way some religions do. When he wrote his latest Top 10 List for blog design, panic ensued. Even today, two weeks after that Alertbox piece came out, my usability feeds keep bringing up references to it. He made people believe they were doing something wrong. They went to work making their blogs meet his requirements, without questioning the validity of the logic as it may have applied to their situation.
I prefer to question things, test them to see if they work for me, and then test again to see if they meet the needs of end users, and then decide. There are many usability design points that he recommends that do make sense, especially if you want to get the basics down. However, some things that he says are considered Nielsen Gospel, like blue link colors and linking "home" from a homepage. There’s a sense of guilt or shame whenever someone defies his standards and experiments on their own. I truly don’t think even Jakob Nielsen wants to smother creativity, but he’s often perceived as a party pooper.
2. In your opinion, do usability and SEO best practices sometimes conflict? Or do they always reinforce each other?
They definitely reinforce each other. I’ve seen the positive results of their union.
Another aspect that fits in comfortably with usability and SEO is accessibility. Organic SEO, for example, emphasizes content as the foundation from which all good things are born. A title tag that’s optimized to make sense for search engines, also makes sense for people who bookmark the site. Meta descriptions that are logical, and appear as smooth, well written site descriptions in search engines, also convert to traffic because the end user better understands what they will get if they click on the link from SERPS.
It’s about confidence and trust. It’s about customer satisfaction. It’s about meeting end user needs. SEO practices can do that when they’re done properly. Even so-called "black hat" SEM meets user needs if the technique results in delivering the best result for the person hunting for something in a highly competitive area. The failure comes when a promoted site fails to deliver what it promised to. This is a failure of a perceived marketed promise. Just because that Viagra site managed to make the number one spot doesn’t mean it converts and doesn’t mean someone with a screen reader can use the site. Without a blending of SEO, usability and accessiblity design and practices, somebody will lose out. You really don’t want that to be the person with the nice little credit card in their hand.
3. Dijon mustard: bold, delicious flavor or yesterday’s news?
You’re asking someone who once asked a Ruby Tuesday’s waitress to risk losing her job by sneaking me out a big plastic container of their honey mustard sauce. I begged her to tell me how they make it but she wouldn’t turn over the secret recipe. I asked to see a manager, to see if I could get them to order me a big container of it. She did ask, but they said no. That’s when she snuck me some to take home. My daughter thought I was very cool. For the next week, everything we ate was dunked into the stuff.
4. I found your post at Cre8asite Forums to be interesting food for thought. Most of us are in SEO to make money and to have a bit of fun along the way (and, possibly, to avoid the drudgery of a ‘real’ job). Without getting into a black hat vs. white hat debate, do you think an individual webmaster has an obligation to add ‘value’ to the Web?
An obligation, no. But you’re asking somebody who, by character, believes that everyone creates their own reality. There’s no better teacher than the one that says you’re responsible for your own life. What you do with it is up to you, but no matter what you decide to do with it, it will have an impact on somebody else. I think all SEO’s deserve to be paid well, no matter what side of the color wheel they work from. I started out as an SEO and I understand the work involved. I understand that its a field that changes constantly and the skilled SEO’s are those who work for clients by day and study search engine patents by night so that they’re ready to make the next smart move for their clients.
I do feel, however, that the very competitive nature of search engines themselves has spawned the SEO underworld. They are like strip clubs that pay police to keep on driving by, so that their patrons keep coming in. It might be lucrative to play rough, and it may make business sense to pay for an unfairly gained advantage. The Internet mimics life. That’s what I was writing about, and what I wondered about when I asked in the forum if this is what we want and if not, is there something we can change?
What are we doing, really, when we put web sites on the Internet?
The way I see it, the Internet is this unique, lawless opportunity that fell into our laps. We can talk to people we’ll never meet in person. We can write about things we may never have thought we’d write about. We can earn money and watch TV at the same time. Parents can work at home and actually see their children. You can find your future mate. You can cuss. You can rip people off and never have to look into their eyes while doing it. There’s a whole environment where integrity no longer matters to everybody.
I’ve been part of the Internet-life since 1995. I’ve played a part in what its doing. At some point I began to question whether or not what I, and my peers are doing, has any real long-term value. What the heck are we making for our kids? Will they want it? Yet, even though I asked the question and wanted to explore some ideas, I don’t want to lose the freedom we have to make these choices. In the end, there will be businesses developed that will help us deal with the messes we create. I just got to wondering when people will grow tired of creating them. For example, first there was an online journal. They became blogs. Now there are hundreds of thousands of the them, which evolved into sites that scrape them for content for even more, but they’re no longer readable. Every time there’s something new, there’s also a way to exploit it and eventually it’s no longer fun to do.
Where’s the value in that?
5. If you’re robbing a bank and your pants fall down, I think it’s okay to laugh and to let the hostages laugh too, because, come on, life is funny.
I just know this is about search engine marketing, usability and search engines, isn’t it. You’re just as obsessed as I am.