10 Ways to Boost Your Website's Credibility

A business’s credibility is built on TRUSTWORTHINESS and EXPERTISE, but as part of your company’s sales/marketing activities, how does your website stack up? A recent study by Stanford University's Persuasive Technology Lab into website credibility provides some important insight into the rights and wrongs of a business website. Listed below are the 10 key website credibility factors from this study.

Why Does Web Credibility Matter?
The success of most Web sites hinges on credibility. Those who create Web pages hope people will adopt specific behaviors, such as the following:
• register personal information
• purchase things online
• fill out surveys
• click on ads
• contribute content to a community
• download software
• bookmark the site and return often

1. Avoid errors of all types, no matter how small they seem.
Most Web designers seek a professional outcome in their work. This study suggests organizations that care about credibility should be ever vigilant—and perhaps obsessive— to avoid small glitches in their Web sites. Simple technical errors can have the same devastating impact on credibility as poor design or navigation. Broken links and unexpected downtime received some of the lowest marks on our survey. Site developers should also remain sensitive to the wide variance in access speeds. Because slow download times impact site credibility, Web sites with simple designs may have a credibility advantage over Web sites that rely heavily on graphically rich elements, such as animations. While designers may face pressures to create dazzling technical features on Web sites, failing to correct small errors undermines that work. Broken links, slow to download pages, search engine imcompatibilities and accessibility problems hurt a site's credibility more than most people imagine.

2. Make your site easy to use -- and useful.
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.

3. 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.

4. Watch your reputation and your affiliations
Web credibility can be positively or negatively affected by outside associations. A credible site can bestow credibility on another site by linking to it, while links to non-credible sites poisons the originating site's own reputation.

5. 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.

6. Design your site so it looks professional (or is appropriate for your purpose).
We find that people quickly evaluate a site by visual design alone. When designing your site, pay attention to layout, typography, images, consistency issues, and more. The visual design should match the site's purpose. We always suggest you get a professional to do your site design.

7.Show that there's a real organization behind your site.
Showing that your web site 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 chamber of commerce.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. Make it easy to verify the accuracy of the information on your site.
You can build web site 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.

From the Stanford-Makovsky Web Credibility Study 2002, http://www.webcredibility.org