Narrowing The Communication Gap Between SEOs And Developers

Brandon Buttars
Brandon Buttars

A long time friend of mine, who also happens to be a web developer recently took some time to answer some questions for me.  He and I have noticed there is a huge communication gap between most web developers and SEOs/Internet marketers.  We feel that the web developer thinks that they know how to build the site “good enough” without talking to an SEO, and the SEOs assume the developers don’t have a clue about marketing online.  Both are wrong. You each bring something amazing to the table and need each other.  I think we need to have some better communication from the very start and to kick things off, and get you thinking differently – here is my interview of Brandon Buttars, web developer.

When it comes to the design and development process, what is the most frustrating thing for a designer in regards to working with an SEO Firm?

I’ve found that as a designer the company and/or the SEO firm does not give a good guideline for what elements need to be included on the different types of pages. This makes it hard to design and you usually don’t find out what elements they want until a couple critiques in and hours after the fact. If you, as an SEO or company, can give your developers and designers some detailed direction you will end up with a more complete vision.

How could SEOs/Internet marketers do a better job at making what you do easier?

I think the details are necessary up front to make things move quickly. This will cut down on development iterations and design revisions. If the SEO or company you are developing for uses phrases like, “you know what I mean”, then the person saying, “you know what I mean”, most likely doesn’t know what they themselves mean. If any part of the design/development/SEO is run on assumptions there will be problems. Everything needs to be spelled out. If the SEOs need specific features spec them out with as much detail as possible, that includes placeholder content. Do not critique the placeholder content! Be willing to communicate about things too. Even your specs may be a rough draft. Work together to define the final specs.

What does the SEO need to know about the technical developer?

First thing is first, web design and web development/programming is different. Understand what you need. Do you need a web designer, a web developer, or both. Developers often times speak different languages. They live often times in foreign worlds that are much different than the SEO or regular person lives in. When developing web applications and designing user interfaces, everything said is taken literally. Be straight forward in your requests and don’t pretend to understand developers unless you are one yourself. I’ve found that some of the best developers out there have the least amount of patience when it comes to clients and people. If you communicate clearly to your developers they will deliver clearly what you want. If you don’t and pretend they didn’t deliver something you forgot to tell them to deliver, get ready for a pissing match. Developers are often times meticulous in details so if they forgot it you most likely didn’t give it to them in documentation.

How can developers and internet marketers bridge the gap in communication to make things run smoother in the design/development process?

One thing that people often times need to realize is that the cost of a project is eaten up by communication. When communication is made developers and SEOs need to understand that it’s costing both sides money and time. Realize that the more you insist on communicating the more the project is going to cost so realize if the initial cost of the project goes up because of unanticipated communication and unnecessary meetings, don’t be surprised. If both parties would come to the initial planning meeting prepared to ask questions and also prepared to answer questions then things would be hashed out much quicker and communication later in the process would be minimal. I think both sides need to understand who they are talking to. They need to understand who is responsible for what. Documentation is the key. When things are documented you have the ability from both sides to hold people accountable, but understand that when communication slips and delivery slips, you have lost all recourse for a launch date. If you say you are going to do something by a specific date, do it.

Is there anything else you want to tell us internet marketing folks now that the cards are on the table?

I think anyone, whether an internet marketer or not, needs to come to the table prepared with a clear vision of what they want out of the site. With a clear guide on what technical requirements there are to do the internet marketing you need to do. A developer and designer can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Go out of your way to communicate what your requirements are, but be open to help explain those requirements and details to the developers. There are more ways to skin a cat than just one, the developers may have a better way of doing things if you can explain to them why you are doing them.

Do developers even care about SEO?

Most good programming practices lead to good SEO. When you validate HTML code it will often times tell you what you are missing and what code has been written incorrectly, so to a degree all programmers care about SEO. Not all programmers understand how SEO works, but most of them understand why it’s done and what technical elements it takes (meta tags, title tags, alt tags).

Do developers like internet marketing folks?

They don’t hate them. I like to compare it to camping. You go to enjoy the outdoors and to relax. You respect other campers that are around you and try to keep it clean and a better place for those around you. Then there are those campers who come up to camp hooting and hollering around their campfire all night, smashing beer bottles everywhere, and leaving the campground with a burning fire, and a pile of garbage. As long as you are a SEO who leaves the internet with good results and not full of a bunch of irrelevant results, I think most programmers and most people in general respect those SEOs.  As long as you respect the internet and try to preserve search engine integrity you deserve respect.


Brandon Buttars
Brandon Buttars

Brandon Buttars has 11 years of web design experience, 4 years of experience working directly with web development teams, and 4 years of SEO experience. His love is CSS, XHTML, and graphic design. He currently works as Online Media Marketing manager for PMA Media Group, My Colleges and Careers Online Education, Renevati Lead Verification, and Offer Alliance Affiliate Marketing. He is a social media nut and loves using Twitter.

Drupal, WordPress, and Open Source…Oh My?

If you have ever owned your own website or blog, been in charge of development for a company, or programmed in dev for a company, I’m sure you have spent and currently spend a lot of time dealing with the questions of, what’s the best platform to build X website, blog, or feature on? I know I have spend many a hour in a room with my teams trying to decide the answer to that exact question over and over again. I also know that the answer to that question can depend greatly on the skills and budget you have available as a company or individual. Is it best to use Drupal vs. Joomla, or WordPress vs, TypePad, etc.?

Brandon Buttars
Brandon Buttars

In an effort to answer these questions for my readers I called on an old friend of mine, Brandon Buttars to give his take on some of the open source solutions in the market today and to get his thoughts on a few other issues. Brandon and I have been friends for nearly 10 years and I fully believe he is one of the most skilled designers/developers out there. Brandon and I have worked together on many projects and Brandon currently is the Drupal Theming Specialist and Web Designer at Odin Development, and runs his own free lance design business at SmoothDZion.

I conducted my interview with Brandon on instant messenger. You can read the entire interview below with zero edits (for your reading pleasure). Brandon shares some great insight into Drupal, WordPress, and a few other things.

Andrew (GTalk) 12:09
How long have you been doing web design?

Brandon Buttars (GTalk) 12:10
I started in 1998 just after high school. My first site I used FrontPage (nasty).
I’ve changed as the industry has changed over the last 10+ years
I’ve got from completed coded sites to database driven CSS. I’ve also jumped around from different open source projects.
“database driven CMS’s”
sorry. i’m a designer not a writer.

Andrew (GTalk) 12:12
no problem
Tell me about the companies you work for now, your own and Odin and what you and they specialize in?

Brandon Buttars (GTalk) 12:16
ODIN specializes in Drupal web development and customization. Often time sites change in look but the core functionality stays the same. Because of that we can save our clients thousands of dollars using Drupal as the framework we build on. It has a huge community of contributors along with an extensive theme engine that allows you to make things look just about how ever you want them to look.
SMOOTHDZION was a company I started up in about 2002 when I found myself doing a lot of simple websites. It has evolved into much more now but the primary focus that SMOOTHDZION has always had is simple. WordPress has always been my platform of choice when it comes to the simple because you have to think of the user and how easy is it going to be for them to use. WordPress has an intuitive interface that just about anyone can catch onto and figure out. It also has a huge community of contributors and a site can be deployed very rapidly if the client knows and has documented what they want it to do and say.
I’ve always migrated to the Open Source communities because I’ve never been a “Programmer”, I’ve always been the guy that makes things look good. My focus and specialty is graphic design, HTML, and CSS. I also try and focus as much as possible on the search engine in my coding and design.

Andrew (GTalk) 12:21
that is great, thanks

Brandon Buttars (GTalk) 12:21

Andrew (GTalk) 12:22
so what open source programs do you find work best?

Brandon Buttars (GTalk) 12:26
i’ve always looked for the open source programs that are built on open source frameworks like php and apache and mysql because they seem to progress much more and seem to have less limitations. I also look for the ones that tend to be more search engine friendly when creating content and code. I started with Joomla but have ended up with WordPress and Drupal. The search engine really seems to take to those projects and the community seems to always have the search engine in mind as the projects are developed. There are others but if a project doesn’t grab me by it’s ease of use, interface, or featureset I’m usually quick to abandon it. I like Drupal because of how on top of things they seem to be, the way it’s module integrate with on another, and Drupal is also backed by some pretty good money and a company called Acquia which gives you commercial support if you want it.
If you are blogging, WordPress.
If you are going to do anything else, Drupal.

Andrew (GTalk) 12:27
So Drupal is basically the best solution outside of WordPress for blogging?

Brandon Buttars (GTalk) 12:27
There are certain situations that an open source project might not fit. You just have to realize you may have to build a custom application if none of the project will work for you.
Drupal is great for blogging too, but wordpress for a single blogger works best.

Andrew (GTalk) 12:28
Compare Drupal to say Joomla, what makes Drupal better? Top 3-5 things?

Brandon Buttars (GTalk) 12:28
If you are going to have a team of bloggers and create a site that has multiple blogs I would recommend Drupal.
It’s much more stable. I haven’t used Joomla much lately but I was talking to one of my friends who has and he had Joomla crash on him 3 times last week. Drupal has never done that in my experience. Joomla did quite often as I used it and I have a friend who’s site is unaccessible right now because Joomla stopped working on him.
The api and framework of Drupal is much more easier for integrations with outside projects and other modules. It’s amazing how many modules have been built for Drupal that are dependent on other modules. This allows for the community to embark on separate projects and come together with all the projects rather than focusing on one big project at a time. That actually moves the community forward much faster from my perspective.

Andrew (GTalk) 12:33
and what do you think are the top features of WordPress that set it apart?

Brandon Buttars (GTalk) 12:37
Ease of use. Built very search engine friendly. It has a much less complex backend. The fact that so many people use it and that they actually have a community testing their product every day I think helps it quite a bit. I’m somewhat partial to WordPress because it was probably the first blogging platform that made sense to me when I used it, but also gave me the ability to do what I wanted with it. The simplicity of the database is a big one also. Drupal’s database has quite a few tables in it. WordPress has around 10 tables in it.
That’s why I guess I recommend WordPress because of it’s simplicity. But if you decide you are going to try and do much more with it you’ll end up eliminating the main reason you probably ended up choosing it, it’s simplicity. KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) explains an untainted WordPress install to a T. If you are keeping it simple keep it simple with wordpress.

Andrew (GTalk) 12:40
that is great input, thanks.

Brandon Buttars (GTalk) 12:40

Andrew (GTalk) 12:40
if someone wanted to have you design a custom wordpress template for them, how could they reach you?

Brandon Buttars (GTalk) 12:42

Best thing to do is to contact me at and give me as much detail as possible. I’ll filter your needs and recommend what I feel fits your situation.

Andrew (GTalk) 12:44
One last question: Name your top 3 resource websites for designers like yourself…what sites are helpful for you?

Brandon Buttars (GTalk) 12:49

Andrew (GTalk) 12:51
well, thank Brandon! I appreciate it.