The UX Designer’s Guide to Core Web Vitals for SEO: Striking the Perfect Balance

optimizing a web page for core web vitals

“I want the design to be just like Dangote Group’s website.”

That was what a client once told us. Until we showed him that it was possible but would cost him his website speed (based on several factors) unless he was willing to explore other design choices. Some business owners prioritise visuals over technical performance, forgetting that a visually stunning website doesn’t guarantee success if users encounter a sluggish experience. Often, those visual elements can directly impact Core Web Vitals (CWV) and user experience on their page. This guide will explore the basics of core web vitals and how website owners can use it to achieve both visual excellence and technical friendliness. 

What are Core Web Vitals?

core web vitals

Core Web Vitals (CWV) is a set of metrics developed by Google to measure a website’s loading speed, responsiveness, and visual stability. Here’s why prioritising Core Web Vitals should be at the forefront of your website design strategy:

  • Enhanced User Experience: Fast loading times, smooth interactions, and a layout that doesn’t jump around create a positive user experience. Frustrated visitors who encounter slow loading speeds or unexpected layout shifts are more likely to abandon the page altogether. Studies by Google have shown that a 1-second delay in mobile page load can lead to a 70% conversion rate drop.
  • Improved Search Rankings: Google prioritises websites that deliver a positive user experience, and Core Web Vitals are a significant ranking factor. Websites with poor CWV scores are likely to languish in search results, hindering your online visibility.
  • Boosted Conversion Rates: A seamless user experience directly influences conversions. If users can’t easily navigate your website and find the information they need, they’re unlikely to convert into paying customers.

The Three Pillars of a Fast and User-Friendly Website

Core Web Vitals encompass three key metrics that measure different aspects of user experience:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): This metric focuses on loading speed. It measures how quickly the largest piece of content on your webpage (usually a hero image, video, or large block of text) becomes visible. Aim for an LCP of under 2.5 seconds for a good user experience.
  • First Input Delay (FID): This metric assesses responsiveness. It measures the time between a user’s first interaction with your website (like clicking a button) and the browser’s response. A low FID (ideally under 100 milliseconds) ensures users feel like the website is reacting instantly to their commands.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): This metric evaluates visual stability. It measures how much the layout of your webpage shifts around as elements load. Minimizing CLS (ideally a score of 0.1 or less) prevents frustrating situations where users click on something that has moved due to a layout shift.

SEO-Friendly Design Strategies for Your Web Page

website navigation on a tablet to monitor core web vitals

The good news is that you can achieve a website that’s both visually appealing and optimised for Core Web Vitals. Here are a few things to consider

  • Image Optimization: High-resolution images are essential for a visually captivating website, but can significantly slow down loading times (impacting LCP). Check out our guide on image optimization for websites here.
  • Strategic Use of Animations: Animations can enhance user engagement, but complex, unoptimized animations can negatively impact FID and CLS.
    • Prioritize Lightweight Animations: Opt for simpler animations that load quickly and avoid overwhelming the user.
    • Preloaders for a Seamless Experience: Implement preloaders to visually indicate that an animation is loading, preventing users from clicking on elements that haven’t been fully rendered yet.
    • Minimize Animation Interference: Ensure animations don’t block user interaction with other elements on the page.
  • Font Selection and Optimization: Custom fonts can add a unique touch to your website, but require additional loading time. Check out this guide to learn more about using web-safe fonts and font display optimisation.
  • Prioritizing Content and User Journey: While visuals are important, prioritise the loading of core content to ensure users can quickly access the information they need (improving LCP). Design with the user journey in mind, focusing on a clear and uncluttered layout that prioritises essential content above the fold.
  • JavaScript with Caution: Excessive use of JavaScript can slow down website performance and impact FID. Instead, load only essential Javascripts at the start while deferring the rest. Also, you should avoid long-running javascript tasks that block user interaction and instead break them into smaller, asynchronous bits.
  • Managing Layout Shifts: Maintaining a stable layout is key for preventing unexpected content jumps, leading to a frustrating user experience and negatively impacting CLS.
    • Define Dimensions: Explicitly set the height and width of images, videos, and ad placeholders to prevent the browser from recalculating the layout when these elements load.
    • Use Dynamic Content Mindfully: Use placeholders or reserve space for dynamically injected content to minimise layout shifts as items appear on the page.

Tools and Resources to Monitor Your Core Web Vitals

Core Web Vitals – The Building Blocks of a Successful Online Presence

Balancing captivating design with technical excellence is essential for a website that attracts visitors, fosters engagement, and converts those visitors into loyal customers. By making Core Web Vitals a design priority, you build websites that not only look stunning but also provide an exceptional user experience. This focus will benefit both your clients and, importantly, the delighted users who interact with those websites.

Remember: Website performance is not a one-time fix; it requires ongoing monitoring and iterative improvement.





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