There’s a pet store down the street from my office. I went there once. I will never go back.

When I walked into the store, no one was there to greet me. The store didn’t seem to be staffed at all – no one was behind the counter and no one was on the floor. I stood there feeling unwelcome, as I looked around for cat toys, which is what I had gone to purchase at the shop.

As I scanned the store for toys, I noticed empty shelves, nearly empty shelves, and others that were cluttered with bags of pet food. None of the shelving matched – some was made of wood and painted purple, other shelves were made of metal.

On the counter was a half-folded up newspaper, a bunch of random items including a stapler, a coffee cup, and a box of tissues — sitting next to a cash register that looked like the one I used 30 years ago when I had my first job during high school.

A display of candy looked like it had been sitting there for years, and the back of the shop — where hamsters were running on little wheels in their cages and fish were swimming around in their tanks — was dark and dingy. The wooden floors were worn, with the paint long ago scraped off in many places.

The whole shop gave me a feeling that it was unclean, and a feeling that it hadn’t had a customer in a while. I turned around and left, still without seeing anyone working there.

Not a good first impression.

Truthfully, I don’t know whether the store was actually dirty or not, but it the whole experience made me uncomfortable. It might have the nicest owners and the most well-cared for pets, but I was repelled by its appearance. And that’s why the next time I need to buy a toy for my cats, I will visit a different store – one that’s shiny and bright, with visible staff, and clearly clean.

First impressions can be everything. And this also applies to a company website.

Like a traditional storefront such as a pet shop, websites can offend potential customers when they initially view them. Unappealing, cluttered, and difficult-to-navigate websites can do this.

Studies have shown that website design impacts how businesses are viewed, with presentation directly related to trust.

Dr. Brent Coker of the Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Melbourne authored a study that found a correlation between consumer trust and the visual appeal of websites. “As aesthetically orientated humans, we’re psychologically hardwired to trust beautiful people, and the same goes for websites,” he said.

“With websites becoming increasingly attractive and including more trimmings, this creates a greater feeling of trustworthiness and professionalism in online consumers.”

This goes hand-in-hand with the ability to find useful and relevant information easily. “Being pretty, but with nothing to say, is not enough,” said Coker.

British researchers at Northumbria University had similar findings in a study of online health sites and how design and content influenced trust. They discovered that first impressions of websites are 94 per cent design related.

Specifically, study participants noted that complex or busy layouts, lack of navigation aids, boring design, and too much text, among other factors, caused them to mistrust a website. Something as simple as a bad color choice can alienate website viewers.

The major influences on people’s first impressions of a website were visual appeal and website navigation.

Corresponding with those findings were the results of a study conducted by Stanford University for Consumer WebWatch, which showed that the average consumer paid more attention to a website’s look than its content. Of the study participants, 46.1 per cent assessed website credibility based in part on the appeal of its visual design, including layout, font type and size, and use of color.

Websites are essentially collections of webpages, and the basis of many webpages are the HTML and CSS computer programming languages, which are used to build and style the content. Learning how to use these languages is an important step to creating well-designed webpages.

Velsoft’s latest computer courseware, Introduction to HTML and CSS Coding covers the basics of these languages, in order to become acquainted with the elements that comprise effective and well-designed webpages.

Bad impressions from poor website design can cause a business to lose customers, while an appealing layout leads to engagement and better conversion rates. Great webpage and website design will lead to trust, while poor design will cause people to view your organization with skepticism and ultimately reject doing business with you.

Make your website the best it can be with a good understanding of the foundations of programming.

So why doesn’t having a well-designed website matter? Turns out, it does matter. A lot.