An interesting fact came my way today. Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab has done research into what makes a website credible. The information, compiled under a document entitled “Stanford Guidelines for Web Credibility“, is based on three years of research and 4500 participants. It comes complete with supporting research, for those who want to follow up the third party references.
With many small businesses moving to a web-based format for selling and marketing purposes, these items are most important to review.
The research fell into four areas: evaluation strategies, design, individual factors, and context/content.
In evaluation strategies, researchers examined the deciding factors people take into account in determining the validity/credibility of a website. Do people try to verify what they find on line? How much does their own past experience reflect on what they believe and do not believe about what they read?
The visuals and structure of a website, including advertisements on the site, often lend to the design credibility factor. Researchers noted “like human communicators, websites benefit (or suffer) based upon their appearance.”
The individual factors are the reason why, if I find a few typographical errors on a website, I don’t feel it is very professional or credible (and is the reason why I am constantly going back and editing these blogs!!!!!). But not everyone responds to typos, errors and design flaws the way I do. It depends on the individual. There is a great follow up piece to this element, with key findings which you can review by clicking here. That being said, I can honestly point you to some very well done websites, which I personally have found, through my own research, to not be credible. (But then again, what is my definition of credible and what is yours?)
Context and content further elaborates on the information a user finds while researching websites. The motivation behind seeking the information, the information presented, and whether or not the user has the time (or inclination) to prove the results as valid, are all involved in this area of research.
All-in-all this makes for interesting reading and another well-researched perspective on website development.