When most people think of website design, they think of the general aesthetics of the site — in other words, does it look nice? Other issues, such as the security of the site and how it encrypts sensitive data, is an afterthought.

Security and encryption should not be an afterthought for your website, however — it is an absolutely essential part of your website’s overall design.

For one thing, encryption is one factor that can improve your site’s discoverability in search engines — part of a discipline known as Search Engine Optimization, or SEO.

Encryption is a process that converts data into a cipher format — in other words, it takes data and converts it into a code-like format that is difficult for less-than-savory characters, such as hackers and other unauthorized users, to crack. This helps keep the data secure.

So how does encryption help your SEO? Google announced in 2014 that it uses HTTPS website encryption as a ranking signal — in other words, it gives a boost in search rankings to websites that employ such encryption.

But it’s not just search engines you have to appease. It would be foolhardy to assume that your site’s users don’t care about internet security. Although not every internet user is conscious of the security of every website they’re using, the trend is toward the public becoming more aware of which websites they’re using and how secure they are. If a website’s security doesn’t make them feel comfortable, they’ll find a competing website that will make them feel assured.

You may be thinking that implementing encryption on your site will make your site run slower — after all, the process of encrypting information is one more thing that must be done before the site loads, so it makes sense that it would load slower.

The truth, however, is counterintuitive. The internet’s standard data transfer protocol, called the HTTP protocal, is being ugpraded, and as the new version is implemented, those connections that have been encrypted can expect to get a boosted performance. This is because the previous protocol only allowed browsers to request one file at a time; the new protocol allows browsers to make more than one request for files at the same time. To use the new protocol, websites must be encrypted — so encryption can actually help your site load faster.

Besides the actual security of your customer’s data, the security of your website can actually have an effect on how gatekeepers like Google Display your website to visitors.

Google recently announced that this October, it will display a message deeming sites “Not Secure” if they don’t have an SSL Certificate that allows users to enter text in a contact form. Since nearly half of all internet users use Google’s Chrome browser, this could have a real, measurable affect on your website’s traffic, and on the usability of your site.

Keep in mind, also, that this does not just apply to such data as credit card information. Any data users can enter onto a website, such as contact forms or information request fields, could potentially be affected, and should be protected.

There are many factors that go into good website design. Just make sure that website security and encryption is one of the first things you insure is up to snuff. You’ll be glad you did.