January 14, 2008

"Fact: search engines ultimately hinder creativity."

As you know, search engines are all about content. Paragraphs need to be related to subject matter, images need to be titled and given a description, and there needs to be text - the more text, the better.

If the search engines can't find readable content on your website, your site won't show up (or it will, but on an obscure page - like page 1043 of 1,000,000). And if your site doesn't show up in search engines you are missing out on valuable traffic.

The problem here is that search engines limit the way a webpage can be designed. In fact: search engines ultimately hinder creativity.

Search engines make everything rightside up.

Recently I was redesigning a website and wanted to create a design that would really standout from other websites; I wanted to make the website completely upside down. While this may seem like a silly idea, the content of the website would not only allow for all of the content to be flipped, visitors to the website wouldn't be missing out on anything because of the upside down website.

The entire website would be turned upside down using a few tricks, one method was to use different key characters to flip the content. Somewhat like this: ˙ɹoɟ ƃuıʇıɐʍ uǝǝq llɐ ǝʌ,ǝʍ ʇɐɥʍ ʇsnɾ 'ʇxǝʇ uʍop ǝpıspdn ˙lnɟɹǝpuoʍ 'ɥo. For the entire website.

Quickly, though, I realized that this idea was not going to work out for the website, simply because the search engines wouldn't allow it.

Not only would search engines not be able to understand the purpose of the website (because all of the text would be upside down, the search engine robots wouldn't be able to read it), but the creativity behind the site would end up being controlled heavily by the limitations of search engines.

It's not just upside down websites that are hurting.

Flipping websites upside down is not the only creative idea that is not possible because of search engines... graphic-heavy websites, dynamic websites using content that is pulled in from places like Twitter or even Blogger, and other creative ideas are all limited because of the limitations of search engines.

It's understandable: if content cannot be read by a robot, the website can't be indexed and ranked. It's even fair to say that this isn't a problem for the search engine companies, and it really fuels web designers to get REALLY creative with their websites; that or just ignore search engine ranking.

But ignoring search engine ranking, as stated before, means a big chunk of potential visitors will go missing.

So what do we, as designers, do about this?

If we are limited in creativity because of the limitations by search engines, and because we can't ignore developing websites for search engines, is there nothing we can do?

Perhaps, but it's time for search engine optimization experts to help web designers and developers find a way to optimize ANY website to show up on search engines. It's time for search engine companies to develop other ways to find, index, and rank websites on their results. It's time for designers to get REALLY creative with their techniques.

It's time that you realize how search engines hinder creativity.