It’s not just you who needs to dress to impress. First impressions count, and you only get a few seconds to make a good impression with your website. If your website doesn’t look as polished and professional as you do in a business meeting, then it’s time to take off its pajamas and make it look as trustworthy as you really are.
Are visitors coming to your website, but you aren’t getting as many new clients or customers as you thought you would? Are you scratching your head over why more people aren’t signing up for your mailing list?
Are you wondering why your competitors’ websites are more successful than yours? Do you really want to know why too many of your website’s visitors don’t end up doing business with you?
It’s all a matter of trust. People always prefer to do business with people they know, like, and trust. And unless your website shows your visitors how trustworthy you really are, you are going to lose business. Do you need to improve your website so that it inspires confidence in your visitors and helps them trust you enough to buy from you?
Who would you trust?
Imagine you urgently had to hire a salesperson for your business, and only two people have applied for the job.
One of them is very well-dressed, but she mumbles so much that it takes a lot of effort to understand what she’s saying.
The other candidate is very well-spoken and communicates very clearly, but he showed up to the interview unshaven and wearing his pajamas.
Which one would you hire? Could you trust either of them to be an effective salesperson for your business? Of course not!
Does your Website work for you?
Now, what does this have to do with websites? Well, you need to think of your website as being an employee of your business. Your website can be a salesperson, a customer service operator, and a cashier or checkout operator for your business.
Have you thought of your business in that way before?
Your website is representing your business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And it’s either working for you or against you, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Now, many people don’t realize that their website can actually work against them. They think that their website will either bring in more business, or it will have a neutral effect on their business. They don’t realize that a website can have a negative effect on their business.
Better than nothing?
The truth is, a poorly presented website can actually lower your visitor’s perception of your reputation, your image, your credibility and your trustworthiness. And people simply don’t want to buy from people they don’t trust.
It’s actually better to have no website at all, than a poorly presented one. But having a well-presented website can do wonders for your business.
How are you being judged?
When the average visitor comes to your website, how do they judge how credible and trustworthy you are?
Stanford University did a large study on this called, “How Do People Evaluate a Web Site’s Credibility?” The 2,684 participants of this study were asked to visit two random sites from a list with 10 categories, then rank which site was the more credible of the two, and share their comments. I’m going to share with you some of the results of this research.
Is your Website dressed for success?
Now, have you heard the saying that “Content is King”? You’d probably expect that most people judge your trustworthiness by the content on your website.
Well, surprisingly, that’s NOT what the study found. It turns out that people really do judge a book by its cover, or in this case, a website by the way it looks.
According to the study, when judging how credible a specific website is, the participants commented on the ‘design look’ (which means ‘the appearance of the website’) more often than any other website feature. In fact, 46.1% of the comments were about the way a website looked. This included comments about the layout of the website, the fonts used, how much white space was used, the graphics, and the colors, and so on. In other words, nearly half of all site evaluators used visual cues, such as the site’s overall design or look, to assess a site’s credibility.
Looks can kill your credibility
Did you find that surprising?
Here are some of the comments that the participants made about different sites. Some of these comments are positive, and some are negative.
This site is more credible. I find it to be much more professional looking.”
- 38 year old man from Washington.
“More pleasing graphics, higher-quality look and feel.”
- 52 year old woman from Tennessee.
“Just looks more credible.”
- 24 year old man from New Jersey.
“Actually, despite the subject of the Web site, it looks very credible. This may be due to the subdued color scheme and the font used on the left-hand side of the page.”
- 29 year old woman from California.
“I know this is superficial, but the first thing that struck me is the color difference. The site is a soothing green (sort of like money) while the other site is a jarring purple.”
- 56 year old man from Virginia.
“The design is sloppy and looks like some adolescent boys in a garage threw this together.”
- 48 year old woman from California.
“Not very professional looking. Don’t like the cheesy graphics.”
- 33 year old woman from Washington.
“Looks childish and like it was put together in 5 minutes.”
- 25 year old woman from Maryland.
Is your website wearing pajamas?
So, from these comments, you can see how having a website that doesn’t LOOK professional is like having a salesperson who turns up for meetings dressed in her pajamas. No matter how well-spoken she is, or how persuasive her argument is, her pajamas are screaming ‘You can’t trust me! I’m so unprofessional I can’t even look clean and tidy! And you’re not worth getting dressed up for!’
Now, I’m going to quote a few paragraphs from this study…
One of the overall findings from this study is that our participants relied heavily on the surface qualities of a Web site to make credibility judgments. Our result about the prominence of design look was not what we had hoped to find; we had hoped to see that people used more rigorous evaluation strategies.
However, our result is consonant with findings of other research that describes typical Web-navigation behavior as “rapidly interactive,” meaning that Web users typically spend small amounts of time at any given page, moving from page to page quickly.
If such rapid navigation is indeed the norm for most types of Web use, then it makes sense that Web users have developed efficient strategies, such as focusing on the design look, for evaluating whether a Web site is worthwhile.”
Our results about the connection between design look and perceived credibility suggests that creating Web sites with quality information alone is not enough to win credibility in users’ minds. In most cases Web site designers need also to focus on the impression that the visual design will make, creating a site that achieves what many of our participants described as “a polished, professional look.” …
Based on the comments we’ve read from this study, we speculate that once a site is above a user’s personal threshold to qualifying as having a “professional look,” then other aspects of the Web site come into the credibility equation. In other words, the visual design may be the first test of a site’s credibility. If it fails on this criterion, Web users are likely to abandon the site and seek other sources of information and services. (page 24, 26)
It’s important to note that looking good is often interpreted as being good — and being credible. Since at least the 1940s, social psychology research has shown that physically attractive sources (usually people) have been perceived to be credible sources (Benoy, 1982; Berscheid, 1981; Berscheid & Walster, 1974; Dion, Berscheid, & Walster, 1972; Eagly, Ashmore, Makhijani, & Longo, 1991). This basic human processing bias— “looking good is being good” —also seems to hold true for evaluating the credibility of Web sites, especially since design look is highly
noticeable. (page 58)
Does your Website pass the first test?
So, according to this study, the first test of your website’s credibility for many of your visitors is the way your website looks. And if it looks unprofessional enough, your visitors may leave your site without even reading your content.
So, it’s vital that you not only have great content. You also need to present your content professionally by having a well-designed website. Remember to think of your website as one of your employees. You need your website to be ‘dressed for success’.
And I’m not talking about looking stuffy and corporate. Your website can look friendly, helpful and approachable without looking unprofessional and amateurish.
It’s essential that your website has a polished, professional look, not just high-quality information. Both are vital, but a badly designed site can turn away your visitors before they read your content.