Evaluating a Web Site’s Credibility

by SMD 

Thanks to my friend Bryant , who runs the very funny site Innocent English for sending me a head’s up about this excellent Stanford University  Persuasive Technology Lab study called How Do People Evaluate a Web Site’s Credibility?

 The data showed that the average consumer paid far more attention to the superficial aspects of a site, such as visual cues, than to its content. For example, nearly half of all consumers (or 46.1%) in the study assessed the credibility of sites based in part on the appeal of the overall visual design of a site, including layout, typography, font size and color schemes.

You can check out the complete study here.

Here’s their overall analysis of credibility comments:

  • Design Look – 46.1%
  • Information Design/Structure – 28.5%
  • Information Focus – 25.1%
  • Company Motive – 15.5%
  • Information Usefulness – 14.8%
  • Information Accuracy – 14.3%
  • Name Recognition and Reputation – 14.1%
  • Advertising – 13.8%
  • Information Bias – 11.6%
  • Writing Tone – 9.0%
  • Identity of Site Operator – 8.8%
  • Site Functionality – 8.6%
  • Customer Service – 6.4%
  • Past Experience with Site – 4.6%
  • Information Clarity – 3.7%
  • Performance on Test by User – 3.6%
  • Readability – 3.6%
  • Affiliations – 3.4%

This summary list has been quoted from Overall, this is a fascinating study. For a site that relies on AdSense I don’t think credibility is such a big issue [it may even be a detriment!], but for a more traditional business model, one in which you are building a relationship with your customer prior to selling, then it is obviously a huge factor.

It shouldn’t be a surprise really. It’s about the same as a real estate agent, the first thing on their business shopping list: a Mercedes, because it’s instant credibility. Same thing online. It’s a superficial world. The study goes on to say that as a result of this study that  Consumer Reports WebWatch must endeavor to educate people so they don’t make these kinds of decisions based only on perceptions.

Personally, I think they’ll have a difficult time with that one. Better to face reality and hire a good designer.

Some Other Articles You May Enjoy


2 Responses to “Evaluating a Web Site’s Credibility”

  1. K on June 12th, 2007 11:03 pm

    Awesome post. I don’t think we can have enough reminders that perception IS reality. (And I bet you thought I never read your blogs)

  2. 4tun8 on June 12th, 2007 11:04 pm

    Jakob Nielsen also has some excellent reads about site conversion. As someone doing ecommerce we’ve seen big improvements.

Feel free to leave a comment...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!