First impressions are important, no matter how you make them. When you meet a client in person or have a conversation over the phone, you can control the kind of impression you make. But if the client searches for you online, you need to let your website do the talking. And just as there are guidelines for professional clothing and etiquette, there are also guidelines for your site’s credibility.
The Web Credibility Project is an effort by Stanford University to understand what makes a site trustworthy. They’ve put together a handy list of the different features that your site needs to be credible, from appearance to function. You can check out the complete list, along with the research behind it. Our highlights are blow:
Design Your Site to Look Professional
This one seems like a bit of a no-brainer, but if Stanford thinks it’s worth saying, who are we to argue? If you wouldn’t wear pajamas to that important meeting, your site probably shouldn’t, either. Many people evaluate sites visually long before they actually start reading the content. This means that a clean, well-thought-out design can greatly improve the way potential clients think of you and your business.
Highlight Your Expertise
Yes, you’re allowed to boast a little. Anyone can publish content on the web; if you want to appear credible, you need a solid foundation to build that credibility on. There are many different ways to show off your expertise; you can link to awards, show off your portfolio, or even include a page of client testimonials. Make it clear that you know what you’re doing, and clients are more likely to trust you.
Make Your Site Easy to Use
Fun fact: if your site is difficult to use, clients aren’t going to want to use it. Important information should be accessible with only one or two clicks, and navigating should barely require thinking. Likewise, you want to make sure that any special effects or visuals aren’t detracting from the user experience; extensive loading times and annoying animations make the visitor that much more likely to click away.
If your site looks active, potential clients are more likely to trust it. Something as simple as a monthly blog post can be enough to assure visitors that you’re paying attention – which means you’ll pay attention to their project, too. If you don’t have time to blog, remember to update dates, events, and contact information on a regular basis. Even a small, outdated detail can look bad if your visitor notices it.
A site that looks professional makes the owner look professional. Your site is one of the first things your clients will see, and it can completely change the way they view your business or organization. Just like a physical storefront, if you keep it clean, well-maintained, and welcoming, clients are that much more likely to walk in the door.