Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons

I remember trying to convince people to use semantic markup because it’s good for accessibility. That tactic didn’t always work. When it didn’t, I would add “By the way, Google’s searchbot is indistinguishable from a screen-reader user so semantic markup is good for SEO.”

That usually worked. It always felt unsatisfying though. I don’t know why. It doesn’t matter if people do the right thing for the wrong reasons. The end result is what matters. But still. It never felt great.

It happened with responsive design and progressive enhancement too. If I couldn’t convince people based on user experience benefits, I’d pull up some official pronouncement from Google recommending those techniques.

Even AMP, a dangerously ill-conceived project, has one very handy ace in the hole. You can’t add third-party JavaScript cruft to AMP pages. That’s useful:

Beleaguered developers working for publishers of big bloated web pages have a hard time arguing with their boss when they’re told to add another crappy JavaScript tracking script or bloated library to their pages. But when they’re making AMP pages, they can easily refuse, pointing out that the AMP rules don’t allow it. Google plays the bad cop for us, and it’s a very valuable role.

AMP is currently dying, which is good news. Google have announced that core web vitals will be used to boost ranking instead of requiring you to publish in their proprietary AMP format. The really good news is that the political advantage that came with AMP has also been ported over to core web vitals.

Take user-hostile obtrusive overlays. Perhaps, as a contientious developer, you’ve been arguing for years that they should be removed from the site you work on because they’re so bad for the user experience. Perhaps you have been met with the same indifference that I used to get regarding semantic markup.

Well, now you can point out how those annoying overlays are affecting, for example, the cumulative layout shift for the site. And that number is directly related to SEO. It’s one thing for a department to over-ride UX concerns, but I bet they’d think twice about jeopardising the site’s ranking with Google.

I know it doesn’t feel great. It’s like dealing with a bully by getting an even bigger bully to threaten them. Still. Needs must.

Have you published a response to this? :


Kim Johannesen

I’ve written this blog entry 1000 times in my head, but now @adactio has gone and done it for me instead. I remember I wanted to call it “Do The Right Thing” and photoshop the poster from the Spike Lee movie. Anyways, go read:

Michael Scharnagl

Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons by @adactio Exactly my experience. Had to use the SEO-Joker many times to convince clients to do the right thing. It feels wrong, but if if helps to make a site accessible and performant I can live with it.

Max Böck

“Take user-hostile obtrusive overlays. (with Core Web Vitals) […] you can now point out how those are affecting, for example, the cumulative layout shift. And that number is directly related to SEO.”

# Posted by Max Böck on Saturday, June 12th, 2021 at 11:35am

1 Like

# Liked by Marty McGuire on Thursday, June 10th, 2021 at 1:47pm

Previously on this day

2 years ago I wrote The schedule for Patterns Day

What you can expect on Friday, June 28th, 2019 in the Duke of York’s cinema in Brighton.

5 years ago I wrote A wager on the web

What’s the worst that could happen?

6 years ago I wrote 100 words 080

Day eighty.

10 years ago I wrote Newcastling

Conferences in the UK.

10 years ago I wrote L33t ski11z

One of these things may just change your life.

15 years ago I wrote A tipping point for microformats

Something tiny this way comes.

17 years ago I wrote On Her Majesty's Secret Sea Power Service

It seems that a number of the bigger Brighton-based bands haven taken to giving quirky, secretive concerts lately.

17 years ago I wrote Best. Simpsons reference. Ever.

From Idle Words:

18 years ago I wrote Cheer up

Feeling down? Depressed? You need to listen to some country songs to cheer you up:

19 years ago I wrote Accessibility goes mainstream

The New York Times has picked up on the whole accessibilty debate. The site requires free registration before you can read the article.