Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Web Credibility Destroyers

How will your customers react to your web site?

Have you ever Googled a word or phrase, then clicked on a link to a web site, and were repulsed by the weirdness or clumsy design of the site? Has a web site ever annoyed or disappointed you? I’m sure we’ve all experienced such things.

No matter how nice, professional, and ethical you are, if your web site looks bad, prospects and customers will form a lower opinion of you. People are increasingly turning to a company’s web site to find out what products and services are available, the price ranges and specifications, staff bios, location, and contact information. So, in many cases, all they will ever know of your company is what they see on your web site.

You really have only one opportunity to make the right impression. If your site has even a few mistakes in it, or broken functionalities, many visitors may never return. Some may even spread negative word of mouth about you.

Here are some of the devouring ghouls lurking in web sites that can ruin the overall impression of trustworthiness and dependability.

Pounce upon and eliminate these pesky monstrosities before they ruin your web site.

1. Amateuritis. Unprofessional design, poorly written content, tiny fonts, confusing organization of content, light colored text on slightly darker background, too many items on the home page that are fighting for attention and should be links to separate pages. Having site registration and login links, with no statement of the benefits of registration.

2. Advertisement Overload. Over-commercialized clutter that prevents visitors from finding relevant information. Ads flashing and bouncing all over the place. Trying too hard to “monetize” a site by burdening it with a bewildering array of distracting ads. Making customers feel like you’re only interested in selling, rather than solving problems and meeting needs. Questionable promotions: “You’re the five millionth site visitor. Claim [by jumping through a million hoops] your huge prize now!” or “Get a $50 gift card by completing our [48 page] survey!”

3. Boundary Blurring. Unclear differentiation between advertisements, opinions, and factual information. Giving voice to paid opinions, in the guise of objective reports. Not revealing that a company provided compensation for a glowing reviews of their products. Not substantiating claims with links to relevant and reputable sites.

4. Bold Balderdasheries. Overly aggressive sales hype. Outrageous claims. Immodest assertions. Exaggerated promises. Lots of exclamation points and bold text, rather than sedate, dignified, moderately stated facts. Using old-fashioned mail order and print media tactics that are ill suited to the more informed and product-comparing, web-savvy customer.

5. Premature Contact Burial. No “Contact” page, or it’s hidden somewhere on the site, and difficult to find. Site seems like a one-way, non-interactive broadcast platform. No land phone, no email address, no contact form, no physical address, no discussion forum, no comments enabled: no way to communicate with the company. Makes the site seem kind of “dead” or arrogantly aloof.

6. Anonymous Creator Syndrome. Similar to lack of contact information, but here we have no identity that can be verified. No “About Us” page. No individual’s name, just an unfamiliar company name or logo. Or perhaps a site title that seems relevant, but the site looks like it was constructed from RSS feeds, it’s full of Google ads, and there’s no evidence of any personal, human author behind it. Some legitimate sites obscure who they are, with just a tiny link to organizational information at the very bottom of the page. The company seems impenetrable, a closed alien entity floating in the murky fringes of cyberspace.

7. Discongruent Design. Colors, layout, images, and other visual elements that seem bizarrely inappropriate. A look that is contrary to the actual nature of your business. Like wild colors, childish-looking type fonts, or edgey graphics for a conservative company. Or a boring and bland web site for an artist, online gallery, or art supplies company.

8. Slop Bucketing. Typos, incorrect spellings, grammatical errors, poor text formatting, pseudo-redundant links (links that seem to point to the same information or locations, but actually don’t, e.g. tutorials are in “Resources” and not “Training”). You feel like the web site was thrown together in odd patches and clumps with totally different goals and aesthetic considerations.

9. Isolation Islanding. No credentials, no staff biographies, no bibliographies, no source references, no links to reputable sites. You feel like the site is disconnected, a cul-de-sac, myopically unwilling to acknowledge other sites of relevance. We expect an authoritative site to link to other authoritative sites, thereby showing a wide expertise, association with colleagues, and a sense of web-based community.

10. Imaginary Authority Syndrome. Vague references to unspecified, authorless “research,” “studies,” or “reports.”

11. Ghost Town Trauma. References to dated information, or even “last updated July 2002″ wording that strongly suggests the site was abandoned years ago and is now an “orphan.” While the information may still be valid and relevant, you feel like the company is a fly-by-night entity that no longer exists.

12. Conclusive Rampaging. Text rushes hurriedly, headlong into insupportable iron-clad assertions, instead of carefully and patiently leading from one fact to another.

13. Misguided Misnomerisms. Calling something by the wrong name, using incorrectly or incompletely defined terms, revealing a lack of understanding, while posing as an expert. Like saying “blogs are just digital diaries”. Or referring to tags as “labels”.

14. Linkrot Lollygagging. Hyper-text outbound links lead to unavailable pages or pages with changed URLs. It’s important to check your links and make sure they still work. Even though it’s not your fault if the pages you link to change or vanish, your customers may think you typed the URLs in wrong.

More information and research on how people respond to web design, and enhancing web credibility:

Consumer Reports WebWatch

The Unsponsored Link

College at Home "Evaluating Online Information"


Anonymous said...

http://www.excellentguide.com is also a good place to find credible websites. Its relates to the theme of your article, so heres a good site.

Love Web Design said...

Totally agree with your article, nice site design too :) Sarah.