I wrote this for Webnovate.coms Blog

As a contributer to a web development company www.webnovate.com that specializes in small businesses, I am privileged to interact with lots of small business owners.  These owners have often worked extremely hard for years to build a business up from nothing.  The owners have learned through experience what works and what does not. I am often amazed by owners who are willing to risk their business’s reputation with a poorly designed website.

Internet business has really only one important gateway to success, its credibility.  Everyone has been told of horror stories of being ripped off on the web; unscrupulous businesses taking advantage of unsuspecting victims via the web. It’s a tale that is told over and over. Because of these tales online customers are wary.

On the web there is no credibility gray area. You are either credible to buy from or you are not. If you are not credible customers will spend their money elsewhere. Credibility drives sales.

Stanford Website Credibility Research lists 10 items that are critical to your websites credibility.

1. Design your site so it looks professional (or is appropriate for your purpose).

I am often amazed at what small business owners unfamiliar with web marketing are willing to put on their site. A small business site needs to be professionally designed. Professional graphic designers know how to build a brand and credibility through properly using art and design. By properly using design, a website is able to convey a professional and trustworthy image. Professional photography is also a very important part of your image. Photographers know how to capture the best in your products. They will light the products appropriately and use angles that are flattering to your product.

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. A good graphic designer can cater the design to your sites purpose.

Colors, fonts, type sizes all convey a message a good graphic designer will know how to use these to enhance your business not drive your customers away.

I cannot emphasize this enough€¦ Don’t skimp on the design and photography. It is money well spent.

2. Make it easy to verify the accuracy of the information on your site.

You can build web site credibility by providing third-party support through citations, references, source material for information you present. Providing links to material and websites builds your products and your websites credibility. Even if people don’t follow these links, you’ve shown confidence in your material. It shows proof and builds confidence. People love testimonials.

3. Show that there’s a real organization behind your site.

Customers want to be reassured that there is a real human being behind the website. Showing that there is a legitimate group behind your website is easy by listing your address, photos of the building and employees. It builds a human side to your website.

4. Highlight the expertise in your organization and in the content and services you provide.

What expertise is on your team? Are your contributors or service providers’ authorities? Be sure to give their credentials on your website. Are you affiliated with a respected organization? Make that clear. Conversely, don’t link to outside sites that are not credible. Your site becomes less credible by association. People want to buy products from knowledgeable people.

5. Show that honest and trustworthy people stand behind your site.

It is extremely important to show there are real people behind the site and in your organization. Websites can find ways to convey their trustworthiness through images or text. For example, some sites post employee bios that tell about family or hobbies. Listing their membership number in the Better Business Bureau is another method to prove that you are trustworthy. All of these steps build credibility.

6. Make it easy to contact you.

Buyers want to be able to communicate with the seller. They often have questions. Good communication leads to more sales. In addition it adds credibility. Criminals and those who might rip you off don’t want you to communicate with them. They are trying to hide. Legitimate business will always list contact information like phone numbers, email addresses/contact forms and mailing address.

7. Make your site easy to use — and useful.

Many clients believe if you build it they will come. This is not really the case. Our 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. Creating a dazzling website with the latest technology or extreme resolutions can actually kill a site. There are standards that are common. Webnovate is very familiar with the current standards and trends.

If a website is easy to use it will out perform any site that is difficult or trouble some. Web visitors want easy navigation as well as easy shopping and check out. Amazon.com is an example of this being very well executed.

8. Update your site’s content often (at least show it’s been reviewed recently).

Web surfers like fresh content just like they like fresh fruit. They want a freshness date. Content that doesn’t get updated shows several weaknesses. One weakness is that it promotes the image of the business doesn’t care about its own business. If they really cared they would update their prices, products and other website information. The second is that the web was designed to share data in real time with updates. People expect updates. By showing off a copyright for the site that it’s a year or more behind leaves people wondering if you are even still in business. Again it’s all about gaining credibility for your site.

10. Use restraint with any promotional content (e.g., ads, offers).

I advise not having ads on your site. Selling other companies and products is not why you spent time and money developing your business site. If you must have ads, clearly distinguish the sponsored content from your own. Avoid pop-up ads, it is annoying users and causes you to lose credibility.

Content and writing style should be clear, direct and sincere. What you say and what you don’t say are important to building credibility. Content should go from short and brief and get more detailed as you click down through content.

Avoid errors as much as possible. Typographical errors and broken links hurt a site’s credibility more than most people imagine. It’s also important to keep your site up and running.

Remember credibility is the difference between getting the sales opportunity or having your hard earned web visitor click out immediately without giving your company a chance.

Techniques to Instill Website Credibility

  • Contact Information
  • Display Privacy Policy
  • Display Familiar Logos
  • Professional Web Design
  • Display Professional Photos