The thing about taking a course on web design entirely online is that sometimes the videos, articles, and other material you have to read for the class, just aren’t updated fast enough. Take, for example, the most recent article I had to read on the topic of trustworthy web design – Prove It: What Makes You Trust a Website? by Lorelle VanFossen
It’s evident that the page hasn’t been updated in years. Since 2012 to be exact. I can’t lie that I’m a little hesitant to trust the information I’m reading about the trustworthiness of a web design from such an old article. But I dove in anyway, and despite the old-school design, VanFossen does raise some timeless and legit points on what makes a person not trust a website.
VanFossen talks about how trust triggers have a significant factor in a site’s credibility. These are the elements of the site that has to be seen clearly and immediately before the “back-button syndrome” gets triggered. A website only has a few seconds to prove its trustworthiness before the back button gets pushed. Elements such as a clear and concise logo, clean images, and a strong message all contribute to a page’s trustworthiness. However, what conveys trust for one website, may not work the same for others. It all depends on the user’s definition of what makes a site trusted.
In Dennis List’s article, “Trustworthiness of Web Sites (2006)”, another old source but still relevant today, he states,
I propose a working definition: that trust in any object can be measured by the willingness of visitors to interact with it in some way. When the object is a web page, which means not just looking at the page, but believing the information presented, or acting on it.
Sounds like List just defined UX years before the term became popular.
Content with Personality
One major point in the VanFossen’s article is to make your company and website sound more personable. This may only work for some companies, but I have done this in my own practice as well. The company blogs should give a personal feel. Talk about the employees that help to make your product or service successful. In the blog, convey your brand message with topics that would make your audience smile or identify with. Let your audience know who the company is behind the scenes. To quote the article, “Don’t leave it to their imagination.”
Website Credibility Factors
I did my own research to find a more current article that talks about website credibility. I found an article published in September 2017 by Neil Patel that provides a thorough analysis, 41 Factors That Influence Your Website’s Credibility.
The articles from Patel and VanFossen both talk about B.J. Fogg’s Four Types of Credibility Study.
- Presumed – assumed credibility based on where the user has heard about your brand
- Reputed – Word of mouth credibility based on the advice of others
- Surface – the subjective opinion on how the website appears to be
- Earned – the visitor’s opinion based on their interaction with you
Based on Patel’s article, here are a few actionable items that you can do on your website now to achieve some of the credibility types in Fogg’s study.
- Provide helpful FAQs – Don’t make your visitors work to find the information they need.
- Always be updating – if your website is frequently updated with new blog posts, it shows to the visitor that you are actively involved in maintaining the site and finding new ways to answer potential questions.
- Show your testimonials and reviews – Word of mouth referrals are an essential part of gaining new customers. Reviews can boost the credibility of a good company.
- Display trust seals – If you are affiliated with reputable companies and services, let your visitors know. Membership badges from the Better Business Bureau or secured website badges give your visitors the peace of mind knowing that your site and business has been verified by trusted 3rd
- Minimal questions – Only ask for the information you need. If you are asking for someone to sign up for your free email newsletter, it may be a little unsettling to fill out a form that asks for more than just name and email address.
- Guest blogging – The more you can lend your company name to other respected sites by providing useful information, the more credible you can make your own brand name.
- Clear Design – Typography, grammar, navigation, and a professional design all play significant parts in the credibility of a website. If the site looks spammy, has misspellings, slow to load, or confusing to navigate, these factors could immediate red flags to any new visitor.
Three Main Takeaways
Here are my three main takeaways from I gathered from both articles about website credibility.
- Your website must answer the visitor’s question without them even putting it into words. For example, if a visitor uses google to search for “box fans,” a good and credible website should be well designed to answer more than just “box fans, ” but any follow-up questions they may have such as:
- What kind of box fans
- What has others said about these fans
- Where are the fans made
- How much do they cost
- How long does it take to deliver
- What is the warranty
- It’s easier to trust something when there is little to lose – If the visitor is required to enter in any information, be clear about what the steps are, what the expectation from receiving this information is, and only ask for what is absolutely necessary.
- Giving the site personality gains trust – An About Us page, blog articles about company culture, testimonials and reviews all contribute in providing the visitor with a bigger picture of what the company is all about.