How to Build a More Trustworthy Website
by Punith Alex
The key strategy for a successful website is to implement a basic relationship with the consumer. It doesn’t matter whether you’re directly selling a brand on your website or sharing your stories and recipes, all it comes down to is Trust. This fundamental idea is so ingrained in our mental makeup that we hardly consider taking the extra few steps to add “trustworthiness” to our websites, even though we might look for certain symbols and signs when we visit any stranger’s website to ensure we aren’t getting ripped off.
For example, would you be more willing to buy a product from an Amazon fulfilled seller or a New Seller on the Amazon marketplace? I don’t know about you, but even if the new seller offers cheaper prices, I’d probably select the former just because I trust Amazon’s brand fulfillment promises more. Ultimately, the kind of college we attend, the clothes we buy, or the green grocer’s we rely on for our nutrition all comes down to this one basic element: Trust.
So what are the two basic elements of building a trustworthy website?
Speaking as someone with about ten years of experience in building personal and commercial websites, I can assure you that this isn’t so hard to accomplish. At its broadest level, there are just two simple elements in what I like to call the Trust matrix. The first is Respectability (or Reputation) and the second is Security. The first element concerns itself with diverse aspects such as brand management, design, language, and effective social media positioning. The second, on the other hand, concerns key components that secure your visitor’s privacy and data, through SSL certification and Anti-Malware components. Before I break it down further for you, let me show you how it might be important to build a trustworthy website for the sake of your product.
What do customers or consumers understand by trustworthiness?
Customers generally look out for the following five things when choosing one website or brand over the other and you would do well to remember these:
- Morality. Does the business have a brand value?
- Truthfulness. Do they deliver what they promise?
- Quality. Do they offer high quality substances?
- Complete, unbiased and effective Information. Is it all about the marketing, or about building customer database?
- Protection from Internet dangers. Do they value the customer’s security by offering protection?
Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? Well, in simple layman terms, we may describe these very things in a more practical sense which you can apply to most of your websites. So what are the things that all of us generally look for when visiting a website?
- Here’s the first impressions king of them all: HTTPS certification, without which, visitors may just as well quit your website even before they see what you offer.
- Second thing to look out for would be a proper Domain Name linked to whatever Google throws up. (Nonsecure.RealtorsWhoRock&Roll.Com seems hardly like a professional name for a realtor for your next office space, right?)
- Third amongst these is a fast, decent interface. My sister, for instance, had the option of choosing between any two colleges. While the first had great ratings, the user interface was so busy and difficult to navigate that she eventually gave up on it and chose the second. Let’s chart this under the Design category.
- At this stage, your visitor is probably looking around for that “Secured by Norton” or “Verified by VISA” security sign on your website, which can be the crucial difference between making a sale, and a customer quitting their cart at the check-out stage.
- And lastly, what is extremely important is that many of your customers will be coming from emails, social media referrals or simple advertisements. It is crucial that information on your website tallies with that on other media, to create a semblance of harmony and build a solid, unified figure.
An overview that shows what makes people trust or distrust a certain web address
There are multiple studies which address the potential situations in which people trust or distrust websites. Among the many reasons which Reddit-ors came up with are factors as simple as “ALL CAPS PARAGRAPHS MAKE WEBSITES SEEM UNTRUSTWORTHY” and “Comic Sans Font on a Business Website killed it for me”. Other reasons include stock images, cluttered and disorganized website design, sketchy content, bad grammar, the absence of call-to-actions and ineffective navigational buttons.
In the online world, there are some things that click and others that don’t. But here are some essential things to follow if you want to add to the credibility of your brand and your website.
The very first thing that your customer is likely to look at when visiting any website is the HTTPS sign on the address bar. It might look like one extra “S”, but trust me when I say this that it makes a whole lot of difference in how your webpage shall be perceived. Think of this as a “First Impression” case.
Would you rather date somebody from Tinder, who could be a hooker or a serial killer or fish monger for all you know, or would you rather be set up by your best friends with someone they know(as annoying as they might be)? In this case, your best friend is Google, alerting you to the lack of an SSL encryption on the prospective website. Google uses the HTTPS certification as a way of ranking websites, so not only does it help you get a good ranking, it also acts as a stamp of approval or a “Go Ahead” signal for prospective customers.
Secure Payment Gateways:
Judging by the number of websites which still flout these rules, it’s safe to assume that people still take the threat of online fraud far too casually. While there are a number of articles which decry the use of protected payment gateways as “added hassles”, just think of this rationally and consider the potential benefits of using secure gateways instead.
A secure gateway can improve the trustworthiness of your website, letting your customers know that you care about their financial and online theft protection. If you’re still considering the logistical aspects of implementing such a payment gateway, secure hosting management sites and programs such as WordPress or Magento can take away from the pain of handling this yourself. A “security badge” can make a lot of difference in how customers perceive you, and that’s especially true in this 21st century!
Social Media Integration:
The effects of social media on any business can be numerous. Did you know, for example, that 70% of people studied in one survey explained that they trust recommendations on Facebook from their friends more than forms of promotion?
While there are many ways of getting word of mouth out to customers, this is by far one of the easiest ways of reaching out to a lot of people all at once. There’s a “six degrees of separation” benefit inherent in the use of social media, with customers providing a good word or testimonial acting as free brand ambassadors for your product. Far more conversions are likely to be made through the use of social media advertising and promotional events, for example than through any wholesale emails you might send out through MailChimp, etc.
Because social media is such a useful tool, you can use it for testimonials that can add to the trustworthiness of your website. Be active, be online, make sure you have a couple of promotional events and invite your customers to join you online for a more vibrant and credible website. You might even come away with some valuable suggestions for improvement of your website, from customers with the real and practical experience of dealing with your site!
The content on your website is a key element of securing the customer’s trust, but the most important aspect of it all is a useful “About Us” page. If you had never considered adding it, just think of this as a book jacket: not only do your customers get to come face to face with you and your vision towards the growth of your site, they also get an idea of what the company or website aims to deliver.
By adding a word for yourself, you’ll be able to communicate directly with the customer, a key human touch which is absolutely crucial in direct sales modules followed in every store you see. Also, by providing your contact information and hotline numbers, customers are assured of a support system in case anything goes wrong. Believe me, this is an extremely important consideration when it comes to trusting a particular website. The more accessible a website provider you become, the better it is for you. Deb from Smitten Kitchen, for example, probably wins far more hearts with her quick replies than an impersonal website like BBC Good Foods!
Delivering on Promises:
Even college websites are commercialized these days, and as a consequence of that, so are the guides. Take the example of a website which provides a “How to Choose the Right University” with the following condition: Mail the prospective college and grade them on how fast, friendly and helpful they were. While it might seem like a good idea for any college student, there’s a lot to be learned here.
People value things such as fast response times and friendly guides, which they take to be a sign of their credibility. It doesn’t matter if your website offers recipes and recipe books, or home delivery of groceries, or reality listings: if a consumer reaches out to you, make sure that you can respond to their query in the least amount of time. Like karma, your fast response will come back in the form of good reviews, word of mouth references and maybe even stop them from ordering elsewhere (e.g. if they had questions about a particular product, not quite available on the website).
Data-Rich Website Content:
And that brings us to one of the most important criteria of building a trustworthy website. Information rich content is a crucial element of building a complete website, providing your prospective customer with a somewhat more well-rounded view of what they might have signed up for.
For example, if you’re the owner of a B&B, make sure that prospective customers have the opportunity to explore options for their pets, or make sure that they have a complete idea of the kind of rooms they might expect or what facilities are on offer. If you have a bathtub instead of a Jacuzzi, don’t try to dress it up. While social media is a powerful tool for marketing, it’s also a double-edged sword: in this case, negative customer reviews can only come back to haunt you, taking away from your credibility for any future customer.
Dressed Up and Updated Design Elements:
No website owner can neglect the importance of an updated design interface, but did you know that design can affect not just the number of people visiting your website, but also the number of people actually staying to take a look at what you have on offer? Let’s just imagine a scenario where you are looking for a website that offers unique termite protection solutions. Do you really want to see stock images of termites and cartoons, or would you rather have categorized information and images that take you through the process? Speaking from a scientific perspective, I’ve often seen how the visual impact of images is a key trigger for our brains and how we perceive the credibility of a website.
When one of the websites I had designed five years ago needed an update, we revamped the entire look and feel of it, adding interactive design, mobile elements, and custom images that spoke of what the brand was all about. Within a span of a month, the new and updated interface had brought in a twenty-five percent increase of conversion rates from homepage to check-out, just within a span of one month!
Before wrapping it up, here are also some honorable mentions which you can add to your website:
- Testimonials Pages,
- Trial Versions of your Product (if applicable), and
- PR/other articles in the News.
At the end of the day, though, building trust is all about connecting to the customer – so go with your guts and build a great, responsive new website!
January 2, 2015
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