There are millions of websites over there in the Internet. The reliability of some is undoubted, like if it's Macy's eCommerce shop, or BBC's news portal. But how many times you were looking for some product or service, and found a website of the company you never heard before? And how many times you wondered if it's safe to deal with it?
I bet that in many cases your decision was made based on the company's website itself. You didn't call your friends or looked for reviews on Yelp-similar websites (however, these are pretty good things to do). And yet, you checked the website and then either closed it and looked for another, or decided to buy a product or order a service online right away – correct? I've done it myself many times as well.
Why? What we are moved with?
Here we won't talk about usability, accessibility, page loading time, calls to action, and many other things which are very important, but which become secondary if something else is neglected – the general Trustworthiness of the website.
Being the active Internet user, and at the same time being the professional who works directly in the web-development industry, I realized that there are a dozen of signs I'm paying attention to, which either make websites look reliable, or signalize to leave.
What are those? Below are recommendations for both users and website owners:
- Social networking components: I'm talking about the little widgets like Facebook's, with photos of people who liked this particular website. If you are logged in to the Facebook, and you opened the website with Facebook widget in it, and some of your friends previously liked that website – you would see their names and photos. And that's one of the strongest argument in favor of this company.
- Address: I feel much more confident when there is the address of company's physical location put either in the footer or on the contact-us page. Sure, there are shops with no public showroom – you shop online, and your product is being delivered from the warehouse. But in most cases, written address makes a big difference. And of course, P.O. Boxes' addresses are not as good as physical ones.
- Phone: if there is no phone at all, I'd probably leave the website at once. At least there should be a mobile phone for small businesses, but landline is must-have for the majority of businesses. The best scenario is when there is couple of phones, fax, and maybe 800-number in addition to physical address. IMs are good for communication, but not good enough to build the trust without the phone.
- No misspelled words: perfectly – any grammar errors at all. But on international websites texts might be written not by native speakers, so you should forgive the wrong tense of verbs or incorrect preposition, etc. Also you wouldn't care about such things on websites of famous companies – their brand would override any minor flaws in texts. But if we are talking about websites of small companies you are selecting the one from, you will pay attention to this. And if I read, that ‘company is exelent prowider of servises' – I'll leave the website. Site owners, especially who have websites with content management system for all pages: be careful when adding new pages or changing texts because very often there is no spell-check in WYSIWYG editors and it's very easy to mistype, and that typo will make you lose customers.
- Website should look up-to-date: showing your customers that you are not out of business is crucial. Don't make them wonder if it's safe to buy online, or they should call your office first to ask if you're still operating (you have the phone written on your website, right?). There are 3 very easy ways for doing that:
- Year in the copyright should be the current one: yes, in theory you can write “© 1995” trying to say that it's the year your company was founded. Forget about it – people want to see the current year. At least put “1995-2012” and keep the second year up-do-dated. In the worst case you can leave it the previous one until the second week of January. Too much to think about? Put a simple java script that will always display there the current year.
- Updating company news: put 3-5 recent news on the home page with clear dates next to the news. It's not working with the general industry news being parsed from other websites – it should be your own company news. And don't worry that there can be a few of them because the task is to show the customers your company is active.
- Activity in social networks: not a simple way, but if a company tweets every day, or updates its Facebook wall, and moreover replies to the comments, you can be sure that the company is alive and paying attention to its customers.
- Design: today even older people can spot amateurish inaccurate design, and they make their choice in favor of a website with professional look and feel. This is a case when books are judged by their cover. Advice for website owners regarding the look? If you are not a professional web designer, get to the web agency and don't force them to put yellow text on blue background even if you think it's beautiful – leave the creativity to the professionals.
Audi or BMW, iPhone or Android? There are lots of almost similar products out there, and there are lots of almost similar websites you might end up with. What are the ‘sparkles' on the websites that you usually notice and select the one in favor of another?
- High-quality photos: should be real ones, not cliparts. I always notice good photos of personnel, office, maybe even customers, and it's much easier with those to get the good impression about the company you are deciding to do business with. If you can't make good photos, don't put any.
- Memberships and certificates: shouldn't be only major ones, like Chamber of Commerce, or Microsoft partner, etc. They can be some local community of entrepreneurs you may heard of. In fact, almost anything works positively because such things mean that owners are in the industry, and most probably other people in the industry know them.
- Security certification: SSL certificate on the checkout page, or VeriSign label on the contact us page can be the winning argument when comparing two ‘almost similar' websites.
- Good ranking in search engines: it might not be obvious, and for the average internet-user it's difficult to spot, but if you're in the web industry, you can tell how much business owners are caring about their websites by checking the level of website's search engine optimization. I won't describe the ways of checking the website's rankings in this article, just explain my point: imagine you're looking for “business cards printing company” in Google, and you're getting hundreds of websites in results. Those websites you'll see at the top of Adwords section, and the ones on the first page itself are owned by people, who invest money in their websites, meaning they really care about their online presence.
Hope this article will help users in picking up good companies. And as for the business owners, they will understand the required edits to implement on the websites to make the best impression on their target audience.