In the modern business world, every company enjoys exposure through two very distinct storefronts. There’s the brick and mortar retail space you occupy in town, which allows you to personally connect with the community and directly sell your products. But then there’s your virtual storefront, comprised of your online presence. Regardless of your industry, you’d be wise to maintain significant social media visibility. But it all flows through your website. Whether that site is a simple ‘contact us’ form or an e-commerce portal through which you sell products and services, your website is just as crucial as your brick and mortal location. In fact, it might be even more important. After all, your store is only visited by locals, while your website could be discovered by millions of potential customers spread across the entire world. Here are five reasons why your website design is important for your business.

First and foremost, your site’s design can either help your branding or significantly hinder it. Your company’s online home will often be a potential customer’s first impression. Today’s consumer chooses where they spend their money after a careful online search. They ask friends and family for recommendations, look for online reviews by other customers and dig through your company history before they ever pull out a credit card. If your design is unclear, that identity will be muddled. People won’t get a good handle on your business, which means they will probably go elsewhere.

Your website design can also help facilitate further points of contact with these potential customers. When someone comes to your site, do they know what their next step should be? If your site’s design doesn’t guide them towards further interaction, they could come and go without leaving you the smallest breadcrumb to track them down. A well-designed company website will encourage browsers to submit their email information or follow the company on Facebook and Twitter. This may not lead to a sale, but it will allow you to market to these people in the future. And that could be just as crucial.

Strong website design will also take away some of the burden of managing customer service. As a small business owner, you probably spend a lot of time answering questions. But if more of your time is spent handling customers than using your talents to manage or expand your business, something is out of balance. With proper website design, you can make sure that your customers have easy access to the most frequently asked questions. That means less time spent answering emails and offering explanations over the phone.

A well designed website can actually open doors you didn’t even know were there. For instance, there are web design awards given out to companies each and every year. These awards acknowledge sites that push the boundaries of design, or sites that are so beautiful they are almost works of art. If you could win one of these awards you’ll receive a whole different sort of press coverage, and most importantly of all you won’t have to pay a dime for this visibility. That could lead to more media interest, and a new customer base you wouldn’t have reached otherwise.

Finally, if e-commerce is an integral aspect of your website design, it must be executed to perfection. Consumers are quite used to making purchases online these days. In fact, online sales are growing faster than brick and mortar sales, especially around the major holidays. But you have to build trust with consumers. If your e-commerce portal is poorly constructed, or has serious glitches that mean consumers end up having to reenter information after data is lost, they may take their business to your competitor. And that will sink you faster than anything else.

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