We’ve come across many start-ups and small business owners who don’t really understand the importance of having a well-built website. They know having a website is a necessity, but don’t quite grasp the value of quality. Your website is often the first impression of your business that prospective clients encounter. And trust us, first impressions are everything.

Many veterans of the branding world will testify the importance of a well-designed website, but not everyone can back up that claim with more than vague, seemingly obvious reasoning. However, as explained in a 2015 Forbes article titled Understanding The Full Impact Of Web Design On SEO Branding And More, web designer Joseph Putnam’s quest to find solid answers to these claims led him to a research study that resulted in some shocking conclusions.

The study involved 15 participants who were directed to perform online searches for health information that was relevant to them. They then pointed out websites that they mistrusted, and were asked to explain their reasoning.

It turned out that “92% of comments were directly related to web design elements, while only 6% referenced specific content.” As the Forbes article points out, there are many elements in this study that carry over to websites across all industries, not just health and wellness services. Specifically, the complaints included busy layouts, pop-up ads, hard-to-read print, boring web design, and slow loading time.

The Forbes article also cites the importance of SEO compatibility for websites, especially with search trends showing that mobile use is on the rise. Every design element can affect your search rankings, “From the amount of flash you use to the structure of your html…” A good web designer will understand how to utilize these elements in order to boost your search rankings, but will also understand the nuances of user-friendly design and not be willing to compromise on that.

Perhaps the most enticing reason to invest in a quality website was cited in an article by marketing agency SalesHub titled 5 Reasons Why You Should Invest in Your Website. “Rather than expelling time, money, and energy on outdated outbound sales and marketing tactics, invest in your website and implement inbound marketing practices,” the article states.

“You will see a return on your investment in no time.” What better reason is there than this? Imagine spending less time finding customers and more time taking care of the customers that come to you. As the famous proverb goes, “Work smarter, not harder.”

With all these reasons to invest in a great website, there’s really no room for debate. No matter what industry you are in, investing in a well-designed, user friendly, SEO optimized responsive website is essential to maximizing your business, organization, or institution’s potential. With that said, the next step is to take a closer look at your brand. This will be the foundation for designing your website, and will dictate the overall look and feel. If you already have a strong brand, you’re half way there. If your brand could use some improvement, try writing a list of words that describe your brand. This will get you started in defining the experience you want your website to offer visitors.

What kind of experiences have you had creating a website for your company (successes, failures, etc.)? What tools helped you develop and define the experience you want your users to take away? We want to hear from you. Let us know in the comments below.