This article doesn't seem to answer why SEO trumps design, as the title says. However, since I know a little bit about the subject, here's my opinion:
Design interferes very little with the SEO of a website. As far as on-page SEO goes, there are a handful of things that everyone can do:
- Make sure all images have alt tags
- Have a title and meta description
- Make sure there is only one H1 tag on your page
- Try and have at least 300 words of copy on each page
Doing all of the above will get you about 80% of the way there. If you're interested in SEO, I'd highly recommend checking out QuickSprout. It's a little salesy, but Neil Knows his stuff.
One last thing for all you frontend devs—if you're building a site that has a JS frontend, it's likely invisible to search engines. You should look at Phantom.js or another tool that will try and render static versions of your site.
One H1 tag doesn't matter as much any more if the page is properly and semantically marked up in to section.
<section> <h1>Section 1 Title</h1> </section> <section> <h1>Section 2 Title</h1> </section>
Apart from when the product/service/website doesn't rely on search engine traffic in it's business model.
Or when the product/service/website already comes at the top of the relevant search page.
Good design is good SEO.
I don't see where in the article he actually answers his question.