Web Site Credibility
by Beth A. Martin
The perception of credibility goes a long way in reassuring users that they've reached a Web site that provides useful information (content) and that there's substance behind that content. In fact, Lightner (2003) found that information quality and information quantity, along with security, ranked first in overall importance in a survey of online shoppers.
So, how do you optimize the credibility of your Web sites?
Credible Web sites should be perceived to have high levels of trustworthiness and expertise, according to Fogg, et al. (2001). Perceptions of both factors can be enhanced if designers:
- Ensure the site looks professionally designed
- Arrange the Web site in a logical way
- Keep the site is as current as possible
- Provide an archive of past content (where appropriate)
Expertise, according to Fogg, et al. (2003) includes aspects such as "knowledgeable, experienced, [and] competent." Other aspects of expert sites include:
- Links to/from other Web sites show the site is well-respected
- Credentials of the author(s) are valued
- Articles contain citations and references
- News stories are few but contain details
In addition, including a statement that it is the official site for a topic is a strength for government Web sites.
Users assess trustworthiness by determining how "well-intentioned, truthful, [and] unbiased" a Web site is. This can be done if designers:
- Provide a useful set of frequently asked questions (FAQ) and answers
- Provide links to outside sources and materials
- Ensure the site is frequently linked to by other credible sites
Federal Web sites must also comply with requirements for Web content. Many of the recommendations support credibility, especially trustworthiness, because sites must communicate ownership and make clear what their policies are.
Fogg, B.J. Marshall, J., Laraki, O., Osipovich, A., Varma, C., Fang, N., Paul, J., Rangnekar, A., Shon, J., Swani, P. and Treinen, M. (2001). What makes Web sites credible? A report on a large quantitative study. CHI 2001 Conference Proceedings, 3(1), 61-6.
Lightner, N.J. (2003). What users want in e-commerce design: Effects of age, education and income. Ergonomics, 46(1-3), 153-168.
Nielsen, J. (2003, November 10). The ten most violated homepage design guidelines. Alertbox.