It’s amazing that while SEOs all around the world never stop emphasizing the importance of on-page optimisation, many websites (and the phenomenon can be seen particularly at German and Austrian sites) still lack content, especially text content. I am not talking only about Flash or other graphic driven websites. I talk about standard HTML websites.
It is pretty clear, for everyone, that a “clean” web page is easier to “follow” and easier to “scan” by the Web readers. But don’t confuse “clean” with “empty”.
There are situations when quantity matters as much as quality. For a web page to do well in the search engines, a minimum of 250-300 words is required. It shouldn’t be so difficult for a web designer to structure the layout of a web page in such a manner that the text harmonises with the design and the menu remains clear and navigable.
A page with more text performs better in the search engines because it offers more information to the search engines about the content of the site.
I’ve heard it so often “the text will spoil the design”. Sure it will, if you choose the wrong design or the wrong designer.
In an ideal situation you should have your site designed by a designer with a bit of SEO understanding. There are some renowned companies providing such services, but their prices are often too high for small budgets.
The best thing you can do is inform yourself on SEO requirements, eventually hire a SEO consultant from the first phase of your project, and ask your designer to conceive the site accordingly.