Oct 5, 2009

What makes a credible website?

Empty plastic bags roll through a cracked and patched pavement parking lot. Shopping carts are scattered about… some maneuvering themselves unmanned through the rows of unpopulated parking spaces of the Electronics-O-Rama. The store signage is in disarray, and the glass of the storefront is fogged and dirty. The color scheme of the decrepit building is like that of a circus tent, plastered with fliers and promotional signs made with poster-board and Sharpies. However, on the inside of this dilapidated place of business is the brightest team of individuals ever to be in customer service, and their product is one in a million. No one comes close in either quality or customer satisfaction, but few customers have even thought twice about giving them the chance to prove themselves.

Electronics-O-Rama suffers from poor perceived credibility. The surface of their business, the “visual handshake,” is lacking a quality that the competition offers, though the competition can’t offer the same quality product or service.

Just how important is perceived credibility? Many small retail establishments have faded over the years to flashier, bigger, chain retailers providing the same products with worse customer service, or in some cases worse products (and customer service). What makes Best Buy more credible than Joe’s TV’s? The answer…

Percent

of 2,440
comments

Comment Topics

addressing specific
credibility issue

1. 46.1% Design Look
2. 28.5% Information Design/Structure
3. 25.1% Information Focus
4. 15.5% Company Motive
5. 14.8% Information Usefulness
6. 14.3% Information Accuracy
7. 14.1% Name Recognition and Reputation
8. 13.8% Advertising
9. 11.6% Information Bias
10. 9.0% Writing Tone
11. 8.8% Identity of Site Operator
12. 8.6% Site Functionality
13. 6.4% Customer Service
14. 4.6% Past Experience with Site
15. 3.7% Information Clarity
16. 3.6% Performance on Test by User
17. 3.6% Readability
18. 3.4% Affiliations

Perception:

A Stanford University study found that 41.6 percent of people from a total of 2684 surveyed stated that design was of high importance when related to perceived credibility. Something interesting to note from the study is that  your users will judge a website by its design. Even though the old saying goes, “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover,” it just isn’t true for the web because the internet is so much more visually rich than books.

Layout, color, consistency, and style all play a major role in the  image you portray to your users. Your website shouldn’t just be a beautiful image, but the right one to represent your company. And while image and style are important, they aren’t the only factors that play a part in your user’s perception. You must also carefully craft your website’s content for quality information, keep your content fresh and relevant with updates, make sure it is easy to use, and keep errors in check. The study discovered looks matter; this of course varied based on the type of site, with banks and financial institutions having the most design importance and reviewers of blogs and opinion sites not placing as much emphasis on design. Users directly relate your credibility to the look of your website. Just as much as you would not have stepped foot into Electronics-O-Rama, your users won’t visit or remain on your site if it doesn’t look credible, regardless of how good you are.

The next highest area of perceived credibility was information architecture.  Your customers need to get around your site too, without becoming frustrated with poor navigation or illogical information flow. It is these things that added up to the two major slices of the credibility pie. Other important factors to remember are information focus, information accuracy, as well as usefulness and clarity. Your information needs to be straightforward, unbiased and accurate, your users can quickly discern the difference between being flashed over with fancy talk and receiving the real deal.

Ballpark

Ballpark

I know nothing of BallPark (image to the left), the quality of their product, or customer service. What I do know is that they appear extremely credible. Their website has a very well laid out and beautiful user interface with easy to find and understand information. It all helps to make a great first impression and this site is a breeze to explore. Take a look for yourself. If you were in the market for a similar product or service they would seem very worthy of your attention. Isn’t this the image we would all like to present? Beautiful, professional websites that make users want to stick around for more and leave lasting impressions.

Give your users engaging visuals, well crafted content, and world class usability, and you’ll have more and more of them in no time at all.

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One thought on “What makes a credible website?”

  1. I wonder if there is any research regarding the use of specific colors and how that effects a website visitor’s perception of a site’s credibility… Would the same site with a black background seem as legitimate and be as welcoming as with a white background? Would the correlation of credibility with color directly relate to the website’s industry? (A photographer with a black background on their website might look more credible than a pediatrician with a black background…) Have you come across any research in this area?

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