When Bad Websites Happen to Good People When Bad Websites Happen to Good People When Bad Websites Happen to Good People
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Tip 3: On the Web, Credibility is Everything.

What can you do to build trust online?We’ve all seen them… those websites that just aren't quite up to snuff. There’s something about them that makes them a little suspect, a little fishy even. Maybe it’s the complete lack of contact information. Maybe it’s that the last news update was in 2006. Or perhaps it’s that the call-to-action is more like a scream-to-action. Whatever it is, something triggers that little inner voice that tells you to move along and take your business elsewhere.

What is it that makes us trust a new website?

Is it a particular colour? A certain look?

We have expectations and assumptions about what companies and professionals should look like. Offline, we would never dream of stepping into a bleak-looking bistro with a broken window, sketchy cleanliness standards, no customers and a waiter who looks like he's auditioning for the role of “Thug #1”. (If you would, we beg you to re-examine your dining-establishment standards.) Most of us want our local restaurant to be a clean, convivial place where we feel welcomed.

Online, just as in the real world, we look for indications of trustworthiness. We want to be assured that a person, a company, a product or a service is credible. Do they look the part?

What can you do to build trust online? Here are a few tips:

1. Dependability Through Design

An unprofessional website isn’t just limited to small startups trying to cut corners with cheap or no-cost – Hello, cousin Timmy! – web design. Medium-sized businesses and big corporations can be equally guilty of a terrible user experience, whether it’s a complicated form required just to download a pamphlet, frustrating-to-use reservation systems (hotels and airlines, you know who you are), or site search tools that never seem to find what we're looking for. A pleasing, user-centric web design goes a long way in building online credibility.

2. Current Content

No one likes the cryogenically frozen website, locked into its 2001 time capsule. Dead links, old information… all of these types of things set off the “Is this company still in business?” alarm bells. Current updates, blog posts, and news show consistency and all contribute to a more dynamic, more interesting and, ultimately, more trustworthy – not to mention useful – website.

3. Show, Don’t Tell

Online, simply making claims about a product or service doesn’t cut it; you need to demonstrate trust, expertise and value. For any e-commerce site, recognizable symbols such as VeriSign and Visa provide visual reassurance that private information is protected, and posting a returns policy and information on shipping charges helps to build consumer confidence. Case studies let your results speak for themselves, while client testimonials and user-generated product reviews let your customers speak for you.

4. Human Contact

Have you ever wanted to get in touch with a company, clicked on "Contact" only to find an inquiry form and nothing else? Or worse, a "fly by night" Hotmail or Yahoo email address? People, get it together! Create an email address using your own domain. Don’t make it difficult for people to get in touch with you. In addition to a contact form, be sure to include a phone number, email address, or driving directions if applicable. Include direct contact details for commonly requested departments – customer service, sales, tech support, etc. Make sure there is an "About Us" page that provides concrete details about the business as well as shows photos and bios of the people behind the organization. People trust people, not companies.

5. No Typos

Grammatical mistakes and spelling errors erode credibility. It’s as simple as that. End of story.

Online credibility isn't instantaneous, but by providing a strong "trust infrastructure" you are well on your way to building a more believable, more authentic website.

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4 Responses to “Tip 3: On the Web, Credibility is Everything.”

  1. 1

    Good ones, Charolotte 🙂 … i also get a little, um, uncomfortable if a company’s “site” consists of a .pdf file, no matter how beautifully designed …

  2. 2

    Credibility – wow perfect topic for today. Get this:
    A person has been on social media for quite some time promoting her new book. It takes quite a bit of effort to write a book so kudos to her until….I read her blog post today. She posted a “useful tips list”. I thought they were a little wonky and within 30 seconds pulled the entire list up on Snopes where they were listed as (you guessed it) urban myths.

    She has lost 100% of her credibility as a professional, at least in my view. I posted a comment on her blog that she should check with Snopes and she deleted the comment.

  3. 3

    Hi Doreen! Agreed! Sometimes you just want to read stuff online and don’t want to have to download a PDF to get basic information. PDFs are great for extended reading, but any questions consumers have upfront should be in an html page. Thanks for stopping by! Our next tip is October 28th – so stay tuned!

    Jacki! Wow, just wow. That’s all I can say. (Okay, I’ll say some more.) Many people should consider checking Snopes before forwarding any email to all their friends, but to post information to a blog without vetting it first?! Yowzer. Then, to delete a comment – not because it is spam or a personal attack, but just because it is criticism? What’s that slam? Could it be authenticity and credibility walking out the door? 🙂 Good grief. Thanks for sharing.

  4. 4

    Whenever I am visiting a website and I see the typical grammar errors such as “its” for “it’s” and vice-versa, I immediately leave it.

    And it happens more often than you would expect, and not just in personal blogs.

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