7 Steps To Building A Trustworthy Website
A growing area in robotics research is how we build robots we can trust. Why? Because if a robot tells you to evacuate a building or steer out of danger, spending even milliseconds wondering whether you really need to could prove fatal.
Trust is social glue. We use non-verbal cues, personal experience and other people's opinions (or gossip) to assess each other all the time. The precise cues we use are still largely a mystery, but it's certain they exist, and, in their absence, trust does not.
In fact, we subconsciously search for cues when we interact with absolutely anything, including websites. A rogue website could download damaging software to your expensive laptop or disappear with your deposit. Someone who can't spell probably isn't very good at running a business (not even slightly true, but a cue all the same).
What counts as a trustworthiness cue on a website?
In short, just about everything.
The words, images, layout and experience of using your website, your social media posts, emails and multimedia, are all opportunities to demonstrate that your business is legit.
Mistakes, jargon and poor design erode trust, increase bounces, reduce overall time people spend on your site, and turn people off your business altogether.
So, here are some ways to build a trustworthy website.
1. Test it
When you're immersed in the process of making your own website it's easy to forget how your audience will find and use it. Check:
- Loading time (and reduce image size if you need to).
- How it looks on mobile, tablet, different browsers and operating systems.
- Whether images appear when people post your links to social media (Google how to fix this for your content management system).
- How you look in search results – add page descriptions and put a noindex tag on the pages you don't want Google to see.
Another easy little test is to put yourself in the shoes of a few of your website users as you find your own website and make your way around it. Does your site provide the information your audience needs when and where they want it?
2. Provide reputational cues
Your About page should explain why you're passionate about what you do, and what qualifies you to do it. Include your most relevant qualifications, be that time you've been doing it, places you've done it, how much you love doing it, and why.
Your CV holds your entire career of experience but it doesn't all need to be on your website if you add a link to your LinkedIn page. The fact you were once a senior member of staff at a well-known organisation can speak volumes about your capability and trustworthiness.
Lastly, use testimonials wherever you can. Sprinkle them around the place if your site layout will allow it.
3. Proofread your content (or get someone else to)
59% of people won't do business with a company that makes spelling and grammar mistakes
59% of people won't do business with a company that makes spelling and grammar mistakes (realbusiness). Errors reflect badly on your working practices. That missed apostrophe or grammatical glitch could actually lose you a customer, so carefully proofread any writing that represents your business.
Build in time for someone else to check your web content, social media posts and emails. A fresh pair of eyes will spot your typos embarrassingly quickly.
4. Use only high quality images
Images project powerful cues about the quality and effectiveness of your business. They should be sharp, well composed and interesting to look at.
Images of people show how your business impacts on the lives of your customers. Our eyes linger longer on images of people, especially on their eyes. Your people images should:
- Be attractive. This doesn't have to mean using models (although, sadly, it helps), but it does have to mean a really high quality image, in sharp focus, capturing a moment.
- Tell a story. Ask yourself how the image relates to your product or service. Your audience will absorb the pictures before the words. Your homepage banner image is, in effect, your message.
- Be authentic and original. Obvious stock imagery of suited people looking at computers will make your business appear stuffy and old-fashioned. It's worth paying a photographer to create original images.
This kissmetrics article is packed with useful info to help you choose images for your website.
5. Be clear
Analysing customer feedback for Amazon and eBay taught me a very important lesson; if people don't immediately understand your website, they'll assume you're either a badly run business or you've got something to hide.
In reality, structuring and writing a website isn't easy. Mostly what looks like sneakiness is just bad design.
Here are some tips for building clarity into your website:
- Plan your website before you start. What do your customers need to know about your business? What should each page be called?
- Writing is 99% editing, so jot down everything you want to express and use it as a launchpad for the final copy. Go back the next day and take a fresh look. Every sentence should express one idea, and every idea should be expressed just once.
- Use the shortest, clearest words you can, especially in how-to or help copy.
- Put the most important information at the top of the page and make the most helpful, searched-for or requested information easy to find on your website.
You may want your customers to read all about what makes your business special before they decide to commit, but what they want to know first is whether you've got what they're looking for at a price they can afford. Put that info front and centre then allow them to explore further.
6. Meet expectations
The experience of using your website can communicate subtle cues about how well your business meets expectations. Links should accurately describe what they link to and headlines should deliver on their promises.
A professional, working website reflects a professional, working business.
7. Use video
If you can't meet your customers in person, the next best thing is to say hi in a video. You could tell your story, introduce your product, explain how your latest tool works. Smile, look at the camera and try to be as genuine as you can through the nerves.
One thing to avoid is the hard sell. We don't like being sold to but we enjoy being helped by people who love what they do. Share your skills and insights and talk passionately about your business.
As the first point of contact with your business for many of your potential customers, your website is a vital reflection of the legitimacy of your business. For the most trustworthy experience, test it, proofread your copy and make it professional and good looking.