Sunday, October 10, 2010

Conflicts in quality for a London Man-and-Van Company website

This afternoon I moved half a garage full of books from Hampstead (in North London) to Earlsfield (in South-West London), a process that was made much simpler and less painful by using a prompt and helpful Man and Van company specialising in small moves.

Naturally I got them off the web, and since my work clients are typically rather large banks or building societies and my entrepreneurial friends tend to be in technology or information, I was delighted to find that Leonardo, the nice Brazilian driving me and my books across London, was in fact the founder of the company, and I asked him about his web site design.

From a design perspective their web site is a slightly bizarre mix of truly helpful and innovative stuff, like the fact that you simply book a 3-hour slot (for £40 - where do they get their profit?) from an online calendar, together with somewhat distracting Google-optimised content targeting the different London regions.

For me, as a budding UX designer, this was a bruising encounter with commercial realities. If they kept the site small and focussed, the usability, and indeed the whole user experience, would be improved. But their site has to appear in the first page of search results, and they pay good money to someone to ensure that it continues to do so.

I know very little about SEO, so the only suggestion I was able to make was to suggest they invite satisfied customers to review them online, in order to reduce their dependency on more artificial methods which [a] confuse the site, and [b] might be vulnerable to a Google re-interpretation.

Lesson [1] for some sites, you have to treat the Search Engine as one of your key users.
Lesson [2] even white-hat search optimisation can conflict with other UX goals.