The old saying is that the “First impression is the last impression.” Do you really want to take the risk of having someone visit your website and get the impression that your organization is outdated and behind the times? It may very well be the only chance you get with them and the content and design of your website can go a long way towards establishing credibility.

The copy that is written for your website includes every bit of text you see — headlines, paragraphs, labels — and some that you don’t see — like META descriptions. Copywriting even includes the URLs for your web pages. Yes, those words matter too. In fact, even the way you name the images that you use on your website is important.

All of the text on your website should be written for two audiences. Both of them need to be able to read it, understand it and make decisions based on what they’ve read.

The first audience is made up of real people. They are trying to learn something, answer a question, solve a problem, or decide where to buy a product or service. Search engines are your second audience. They need to crawl your site, index the content and rank it against all of other websites out there that cover the same topic.

Your text needs to be descriptive and thorough, yet clear and concise. It takes a lot of work to get to that point, but choosing the words and phrases for your website is well worth the time and effort. If you get it right, it can lead to good search engine rankings, which will help people get to your website.

Once someone gets to your website, the design comes into play. Website design is much more than just layout, colors and graphics these days. The user experience is a vital part of the equation and the layout of your website absolutely has to adapt to mobile devices.

It’s important to pay attention to and follow current visual design trends — big graphics, interesting fonts and animation. Using these techniques makes your website look modern and up-to-date, and this reflects on your organization. But you need to have balance between the design and the experience. You don’t want to slow your website down or distract the visitor. Images should enhance the message, fonts have to be legible and animation needs to be subtle.

Custom web design is great and can make a huge impact on your audience, but only if they are able to navigate your website and find the information they are looking for. Make sure that every page on your site highlights the information that you want people to read and uses graphics and links to lead them there.

Everything about the design should provide a good user experience, enhance your message and point the visitor in the direction you want them to go.

The words and images you use on your website can make all the difference in the world. They reinforce your brand, enhance your image and help shape someone’s perception of your organization. They can help you retain existing clients, grow your customer base and share your expertise with the world.