Some of the dingiest diners and dives serve the best food on the planet. We've got a few places in our neck of the woods that fit the bill - nondescript or even crumbling on the outside but a mind-blowing culinary experience within.

That brick-and-mortar atmosphere can work for some small businesses. But it's a recipe for disaster online.

The appearance, functionality and overall feel of your website is so crucial to success. Visitors form an instant impression about your business or your brand upon arriving to your home or landing page. Unfair or not, that impression will color their opinion of your credibility and your ability to deliver quality products or services.

You might make the best widget on the planet, but it's tough to inspire potential consumers to action if they can't get past your circa-1997 Web site. There are a host of simple templates companies can rely on to spruce up their aesthetics, but those do present some limitations.

While looks are everything, there's a bit more to consider when thinking about your online presence and web design - boosting your standing in the search engines. On this note, we cede the floor to search optimization guru Aaron Wall, who has addressed the importance of quality design multiple times on this blog (SEObook):

'As spam continues to spread across the web, investing in a unique design helps set your site apart from most other sites. The difference between "spam" and what is worthy of subscribing to is often not much more than good content formatting, clear writing, and a strong site design.

Making a site accessible, usable, and professional looking might cost you $10,000 or more by the time you are done with it. If you are low on funds, it might make more sense to spend that money on brand building and marketing, but if you want designers and high authority webmasters to read your site and link at your site it is much easier if your site looks professional.

Off the start I did not believe that coding errors or design mattered that much, but if you want web designers and developers to link to you, then your site has to pass the sniff test. That consideration is much more important if you write a tech blog than if you run a fairly static e-commerce site.'

We can't stress it enough - credibility is key. Not just for your potential customers, but for independent experts, technicians, bloggers and others who can vouch for your reputation, point prospective clients your way and generally help serve as reference points to your site.

We at lifeBLUE have built our reputation on crafting intelligent, beautiful and intuitive web design. Our team of expert programmers, designers and content creators understands the vital importance of functional, awe-inspiring design. You can check out some our handiwork in our portfolio.