You’re just starting a business or you are already marketing an existing business, and you’re turning towards the web as a cost-effective tool to promote your services and products, which are the best in their categories. However, results and feedback from your website has been less than compelling. You managed to get lots of first-time visitors, but for some reasons, people don’t click through or they hesitate doing business with you.
That’s where the topic of web credibility comes.
As in real-life, web credibility principles are very simple: don’t show something amateurish, and show cues that you are serious. There are many resources on the web, but I will be using this study as a main reference. The top 10 criterias people use to evaluate a website’s credibility are:
- Website design 46.1%
- Information Architecture 28.5%, i.e. the structure of your website
- Information focus, 25.1%
- Company motive, 15.5%
- Information Usefulness — 14.8% Overall
- Information Accuracy — 14.3% Overall
- Name Recognition and Reputation — 14.1% Overall
- Advertising — 13.8% Overall
- Information Bias — 11.6% Overall
- Writing Tone — 9.0% Overall
The most important criteria, far ahead others, is the website’s design. In most cases, a first-time visitor will have less than a couple of seconds to assess if he’s on the right tracks or if he has to hit the “back button”. Is this a spammer’s website? a myspace page? or the website of a serious business? Here, there are many ways to improve your website: hire a professional web designer, update your website to modern standards, see what’s being done by leading websites and agencies.
We can group criteria #2, 3, 5, 6, and 9 in the same category, which is quality of information presented to the user. This is the second most important item if you want to improve your website’s credibility. A professional website delivers timely, accurate, relevant and well-organized information. For instance, if users can see that pages were last updated one year ago, if there are typos, if the copy is off-topic, or if everything is at its wrong place, then you lose a lot of credibility.
The third criteria, which is #4 and 7, reflect your company’s objectives, products and mission; and as such, this is harder to improve the two previous criterias.
One last issue is advertising. Nowadays, we associate pages full of advertisings and Google Adsense units with spam pages, so remember to be moderate when inserting ads. Of course, this is not an easy issue to decide upon, and there might be business issues at stake.
Additional Reading: Stanford Guidelines for Web Credibility