Visitors arriving at your website will very quickly form an impression about your website and have subconscious questions that need to be answered before they can fully trust you. In their mind, they are asking – who provided this information? Can I trust the person who wrote it? Is the content credible and honest? Does it measure up to other information I have read on other websites? Without trust, people are even reluctant to complete your contact form and email off a query let alone provide you with their credit card details. Being an expert, having the appropriate qualifications and being trustworthy is not enough – you need to convince your readers that you have these qualities.
How to generate credibility online
Stanford University recently published a study “Elements that affect web credibility” and the study found that people want a ‘real-world feel’. Respondents’ comments indicated that websites that gave that real-world feel often had the following characteristics:
- a simple navigational structure
- effective branding
- a physical location (i.e. a street address)
- photos of real people who worked in the organization
Even small details mattered: the presence of spelling typos and broken links caused a significant lack of trust.
By using intuitive navigation that allows your readers to not have to spend too long thinking about where to click is essential. Your role is to steer people through your website so they are not feeling lost, confused or irritated – especially if they come across broken links. If clicking on a link suddenly takes your reader off to somewhere they weren’t expecting and they have no idea how to get back to when they had come from, this can cause a significant loss of credibility and your web visitor can quickly become unwilling to click anywhere else on your website!
Who wrote this website?
If you have ever found yourself surfing through a website and wondered who wrote what you are reading – either you’ve been reading too long and looked at too many websites or it is simply not clear from a brand recognition perspective who it is who actually owns the website. Generally, your logo (or even the name of your organization) should be in the header of every web page and link back to your homepage. Keep it in the same position on every page – reinforcing to your reader the link between your logo and your business.
Who are you?
Additionally people want to feel they are dealing with a ‘real-world’ business so make sure you publish your name, photo and contact details on your ‘Contact’ or ‘About’ page or in an ‘author block’ at the end of each article, if appropriate.
Explain where you are based
Visitors to your website often want to know more about who is behind a website and for this reason, many people write a small bio sketch of their staff and where they work. We all make judgments on how people look and your readers will be no exception – however, the inclusion of a clear photo of a ‘real person’ really helps to humanize and personalize a website and overcome the anonymity of the global world wide web. Just ensure the photo you choose is professional in appearance and an asset to the website and your organization. Some people even include a photo of the building from which they work.
Details are important
You may think that the odd misspelled word or broken link within your website does no harm – unfortunately, it creates a significant loss of trust. What you think may be minor and insignificant in your mind can generate a large number of red flags in your readers’ minds. If they think you are not interested in the small details can easily raise doubts for them about the rest of your content.
The look and feel of a website creates an impression of trustworthiness and credibility if it is well designed. This does not necessarily mean that your website needs to be complex and sophisticated but it does mean that your website should look professional and work perfectly. So don’t try to overfill your website with every design feature you can think of just because you may have seen the features on other websites – often it is better to use a less cluttered approach, allowing your visitors to focus on your message and not become distracted by all the other design elements which are competing for their attention.
For your website to be perceived as credible and trustworthy simply give your readers what they are looking for – none of it is rocket science. You want your readers to return to your website regularly and feel reassured they are in the right place. Your efforts and attention to detail will pay off.