Written by Hirsch Fishman
New visitors to the website of a small business look for one thing in particular when they’re looking at the website for the first timet. This thing is so important, in fact, that if it’s not there, all hopes for getting them to participate in some transaction of information with you can be thrown out the window. What is it, you’re asking? It’s your credibility.
Website credibility is one of the most important factors in whether your small business’s website works like you intend it to. Most websites exist for the purpose of making a sale – and sales is all about establishing trust with your potential clients.
The sales pitch doesn’t have to be a hard sell, by the way. For example, many blogs are intended to showcase someone’s expertise as a way to entice people to do business with them – one of the reasons why I think every business website should have a blog.
Plain and simple, no one is going to hire you to perform a service, or buy a product from you, through your website if (1) they don’t trust you, and (2) they don’t see that trustworthiness conveyed through the website.
There’s been a lot of research done on this topic, particularly at Stanford University. BJ Fogg of the Persuasive Technology Lab there says that your website’s credibility is a powerful thing because it gives the power to do two things to your visitors:
The PTL also published a widely circulated list of 10 guidelines for boosting your website’s credibility, a lot of which was the inspiration for my points below. That being said though, I think that one of their guidelines stands out above the others as the top way that visitors establish the credibility of your website.
…by looking for your contact information.
It sounds simple, and it is really. How easy it is for visitors, and more importantly, for visitors who are potential clients of yours, to find your contact information says to them: hey, there is a real person behind this business and this website. Here’s their email address. Here’s their phone number. And here’s where they’re located.
Displaying your contact information also tells people see that you really are a legitimate business that they can do business with – especially if there’s a phone number combined with a physical address. When there’s contact information available, coupled with some of the other things I’ll talk about below, that’s a major red flag that says that your business isn’t credible, and that they should take their business to someone who is.
Why is this so important?
Because in general, people like to do business with other people. We sometimes assume that just because someone is visiting a website means that they’re comfortable communicating with you electronically, when that’s not always the case.
There are plenty of people out there who do their research by looking at websites, but still prefer to pick up the phone and actually speak to someone when it comes time to make a transaction – myself included. If you hide your phone number or other basic contact information, all the people who prefer to do business that way will be turned off if they can’t find a way to call you.
That’s why on this website, I have my phone number prominently displayed in 2 spots on every page – in the top right of the header, and in the footer. That number is listed along with my email address AND a link to a contact form that people can fill out. And wouldn’t you know it – well over half the new project inquiries I get are people calling me over the phone to make first contact.
Now, granted I’m a web designer and study websites for a living, but when I visit a website, I can tell within the first few seconds all I need to know about the business behind it. That’s the power that design has on your visitors – they may not notice the same details as I do, but they’re doing the same thing.
So what are some design elements that people look for in order to establish your website’s credibility? Here a few of the more notable items:
While your design is important, once people get past the design and start looking at your content, if they don’t see what they’re looking for or expecting to find, they’re going to just as easily be turned off.
What are some content elements that visitors look for on your website in order to establish credibility? Here are some of the questions they’re asking themselves:
What else do you think builds a website’s credibility? What have you come across in your experience that has made a website more or less credible? Share your thoughts with everyone by leaving a comment below!