Have you ever wondered what makes a website successful? Why are some sites able to make more money, grow larger subscriber lists, and more generally, be successful? With these questions in mind, I began to investigate and stumbled on an area of research called captology—or the study of computers as persuasive technologies.
In this article, I’m going to share what I found, and what I believe makes a website credible.
The Importance of Credibility
Dr. BJ Fogg, Director of the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, indicated that,
Anecdotal evidence suggests web users are becoming more skeptical of the information they find online and may be wary of web-based experiences. As a result, [websites] are now face increasing pressure to enhance the credibility of their sites.
This isn’t really a surprise. It’s quite obvious that since business websites are vehicles of persuasion, aimed at getting users to register for a list or buy a product, their credibility is essential.
How to Establish Credibility
While it’s clear that the more credible a website, the more successful it will be, the question quickly becomes, “How can I make my website more credible?” Fortunately, the Stanford Persuasive Tech Lab conducted and published a study indicating the 10 guidelines to help businesses make their websites more credible.
Although it’s beyond the scope of this article to list and explain all of the guidelines, I will, however, review some of the relevant suggestions on the list—one in particular that can be tackled by installing a simple plugin! Let’s get started.
Peeling Away the Curtain
If you looked over the guidelines, you’ll find that there are a few that deal with making your company and website more transparent.
These guidelines are:
- Show that there’s a real organization behind your site.
- Highlight the expertise in your organization, and in the content and services you provide.
- Show that honest and trustworthy people stand behind your site.
What I’ve found is that many business websites seem cold and boring, and as a result fail to engage viewers. These sites typically focus only on products and services, ignoring the importance of human interaction. This is the complete opposite of how business usually works in the offline world—where people shake hands, converse, and sometimes even meet for lunch.
These guidelines are easy to tackle, by:
- Making contact information for the company easily accessible.
- Showing credentials, degrees, and awards of employees or the company.
- Having a company “about us” page that has a picture and short bio of each employee.
This allows website viewers to easily understand what your company objectives are, and who is behind them. This, of course, increases the credibility of your website.
Make it Easy to Verify Information
With so much information available on the internet, consumers may face a dilemma about what to believe. And, why should consumers trust websites that are trying to get them to click on ads, buy products, and give away their contact information?
So, if you want to appear trustworthy to your website viewers, then one of the best things you can do is fact check your information and provide clear references. This step is a true polishing feature that can add a great deal of credibility and trustworthiness to your site.
Although some of the most successful websites have done this simply by hyperlinking to sources, there has been a trend towards actually using footnotes and references in the internet content. Nicholas Reese’s latest website design makes great use of footnotes, and has increased the overall credibility of his site.
FYI, I recently created a WordPress plugin called Credibility (no pun intended), which allows you to easily add footnotes to your content in less than 5 minutes!
Avoid Errors of All Types
This point is self explanatory, but I will reiterate it for dramatic effect. Your website should be error-free because errors of any kind are an instant turn off. But, what I would like to emphasize is that this refers to errors of any kind—including grammar, spelling, website errors, bad links, and so on.
I’ll be the first to admit that I make my fair share of grammar and spelling mistakes, and that I’ve brought entire websites down due to programming errors. This is why I believe that this guideline may not be the easiest to follow. However, I’ve found that many errors can easily be identified and resolved just by using a second pair of eyes.
So, if you’re part of a team, make it a rule to never publish something before your coworkers glance it over–it may make all the difference in the world.
If you’re a freelancer, consider becoming a part of a group, such as Advanced WordPress or JFDI, which are both groups with a large amount of freelancers and intelligent people that will double check your work.
So, it’s no secret that credibility is a critical part to growing a business and establishing yourself among others. By making your website more personal and professional you’re on the way to a more credible website.
Share some of the things you do to establish credibility of your website!
Eric Binnion writes and programs for Microbrand Media, the company behind Broadband Now, the easiest way to search and compare broadband services on the Internet.