“What Makes a Website Credible” was a study published 15 years ago following three years of research at Stanford University, USA.
In 2003, the web was a much different place than it is today, but the following statistic can be found on over 80,000 websites:
75% of web users admit making judgments about the credibility of a company based on the design of its website.
I decided to delve a little deeper and discovered that the study had a section very rarely, if ever, mentioned, titled “Ten Guidelines for Designing Credible Websites.” I’ve included them below in their unedited version (with comments) because, amazingly, they’re still very relevant today.
Here's the TEN (actually 11) trust building items for your website.
- Have the website professionally designed by a specialist agency (really, I couldn't make this up!)
- Provide links to all the source material referenced
- Provide your physical address details (not a PO Box)
- Include info on professional memberships, accreditations and who you've worked with
- Provide staff bios and photos
- Make it easy to contact you
- Make it easy for visitors to find what they're looking for
- Provide customer centric content
- Keep content updated
- Moderate your selling
- Check and double check that no errors exist
Guideline #1: Looks matter
Design your site so it looks professional (or is appropriate for your purpose).
People quickly evaluate a site by visual design alone. When designing your site, pay attention to layout, typography, images, consistency issues, and more. Of course, not all sites gain credibility by looking like IBM. The visual design should match the site's purpose.
TIP: The report also says that having a website created by an outside design firm adds further credibility.
Guideline #2: Prove it
Make it easy to verify the accuracy of the information on your site.
You can build website credibility by providing third-party support (citations, references, source material) for information you present, especially if you link to this evidence. Even if people don't follow these links, you've shown confidence in your material.
TIP: Providing customer reviews and leveraging social proof are also great for this.
Guideline #3: We are real
Show that there's a real organization behind your site.
Showing that your website is for a legitimate organization will boost the site's credibility. The easiest way to do this is by listing a physical address. Other features can also help, such as posting a photo of your offices or listing a membership with the local chamber of commerce.
TIP: Also include links to social media channels and ensure Google My Business is up to date.
Guideline #4: Brainiacs “R” us
Highlight the expertise in your organization and in the content and services you provide.
Do you have experts on your team? Are your contributors or service providers authorities? Be sure to give their credentials. Are you affiliated with a respected organization? Make that clear. Conversely, don't link to outside sites that are not credible. Your site becomes less credible by association.
TIP: Include all professional memberships and accreditations, who you've worked with plus case studies. And review the quality of your back-links.
Guideline #5: Warm & fuzzy
Show that honest and trustworthy people stand behind your site.
The first part of this guideline is to show there are real people behind the site and in the organization. Next, find a way to convey their trustworthiness through images or text. For example, some websites post employee bios, including information about hobbies. This helps to humanize the individuals –- and the organization.
TIP: Show the humans in the organisation with staff bios and photos
Guideline #6: We’re accessible
Make it easy to contact you.
A simple way to boost your site's credibility is by making your contact information clear: phone number, physical address, and email address.
TIP: Include a contact form and clear Calls to Action.
Guideline #7: Small cost, big benefit
Make your site easy to use and useful.
We're squeezing two guidelines into one here. The research shows that sites win credibility points by being both easy to use and useful. Some site operators forget about users when they cater to their own company's ego or try to show the dazzling things they can do with Web technology.
Websites lose credibility whenever they make it hard for users to accomplish their task at hand.
TIP: Poor navigation is the number one reason visitors leave a site after 30 seconds. And remember the 4Cs - create customer centric content.
Guideline #8: Freshly baked
Update your site's content often (at least show it's been reviewed recently).
People assign more credibility to sites that show they have been recently updated or reviewed.
TIP: And that’s also what Google thinks.
Guideline #9: No sidetracks
Use restraint with any promotional content (e.g. ads, offers).
If possible, avoid having ads on your site. If you must have ads, clearly distinguish the sponsored content from your own. Avoid pop-up ads; people hate them, and your site will lose credibility because you’re distracting users from their task. As for writing style, try to be clear, direct, and sincere. Avoid a promotional tone.
TIP: People don't like to be sold to. However, pop-ups generally have decent click through rates - often around 2% - higher than other kinds of ads … if used to deliver relevant, helpful content.
Guideline #10: Perfect polish
Avoid errors of all types, no matter how small they seem.
Small errors like misspellings and broken links hurt a site's credibility more than most people imagine.
TIP: The nagging doubt that errors place in the customer's mind, lead to them asking "can I trust them not to make mistakes with my business?"
Always remember …
People do business with the people they know, like and trust.
This is the first article in a series looking at the value of design. Next month: Why first impressions matter.
Business owner, Graphic designer, Web developer, Brand and marketing strategist, Adobe Creative Cloud wizard, Business Catalyst Premium Partner, Adobe Community Professional, Passionate Liverpool FC supporter, Muse Advisory Board Member, Semi-retired (tried and failed at least 17 times) Futsal player for Dribblers FC and Toothless Tigers, BC Sandpile activist, Liverpool International Academy and Burwood FC coach, can juggle and do over 1,000 keepie-ups (just not at the same time - come on!)