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How can you boost the credibility of your website?

Alex Christie

6 August 2008

Wiktionary defines credibility as "reputation impacting one’s ability to be believed". An article I came across a while back was some guidelines that were produced by Stanford University on how to make your website more credible. Stanford University conducted a study over 3 years that involved over 4,500 people, from which they produced 10 clear guidelines. Even though the research was carried out a number of years ago, the findings can still be used today.

These 10 guidelines are:

  1. Provide Verification of the accuracy of the information contained on your site. This can be achieved by providing references to source material, with a further step being to provide a link to the actual source document if it is available online. Using quotations from reputable figures, especially those who are experts in the topic of discussion can also help to give your information credibility.
  2. Show that your site is actually run by a legitimate company. Solutions to providing evidence of that you are legitimate include providing contact details of your business, via a contact page on your website. Providing a telephone number in the header of your website and by showing that you are a registered business by placing the relevant details in your website’s footer.
  3. Show that you are experts. This can be achieved by showing the credentials you possess by having links from your site to respected organisations. Links to unreputable sites can have the reverse effect of discrediting your site.
  4. Show that there is a human presence behind your website. This can be done by providing a page with staff profiles, using images of people is very important to build trustworthiness.
  5. Provide an easy and clear way for the person visiting your site to contact you. By providing telephone numbers, email and a physical location address.
  6. Make sure your site looks professional, or looks like how people would expect a particular website of this type should look. ‘The visual design should match the site’s purpose’. I suppose you could include in this guideline whether the website looks secure, particularly if it is an ecommerce site. The usual  indicators need to be present, such as having secure servers for personal and payment details and the little padlock icon at the bottom of the browser page. And an authentic verisign logo, or proof that your site has been tested for security and passed.
  7. Ease of use and providing a viable service. Their research showed that you win a lot of credibility by not focusing on your own ego or using your website to solely show off your technological capabilities and thereby forgeting your users in the process. You gain more credibility by focusing on your users and providing a useful service.
  8. Regularly keep your site’s content updated. ‘People assign more credibility to sites that show they have been recently updated or reviewed.’
  9. Restraint is needed on the use of promotional material. If you need to include adverstisements on your site, ensure that you keep it separarte from your site’s content by having clearly distinguishable advertisement spaces. Advertisements should be clear, concise, direct and sincere.
  10. Avoid errors of any type, with a view that it is irrelevant of whether they are large or small. ‘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.’
  11. Source: Fogg, B.J. (May 2002). "Stanford Guidelines for Web Credibility."   A Research Summary from the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab. Stanford University.

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