Sunday, July 20, 2008

credibility is king, not content

Trust is the rarest commodity on the web, as web usability specialist Jakob Nielsen once said.

Its value is far beyond real estate or gold. If customers don't esteem your ethics very highly, they will only reluctantly do business with you. As soon as an honest competitor crosses their radar, the scruples-deficient business is toast. Credibility is king, not content. Content is prince.

You hear many say:

* "Content is King!"

* "It's a cool new Web 2.0 service, but how will you attract high quality, user-generated content to it?"

* "How do we find or create content for this blog?"

* "What kind of content should we put on Twitter?"

*"We need a steady flow of good, keyword-rich content, so we can sell ads and gain affiliates."

* "It works great! Now all we need is some content for it, and keep it frequently updated with fresh content."

Okay. That is all true. You need content. High quality content attracts high quality users, some of whom bring along hotly topical, much sought-after, premium quality content. I'm a web content strategist, aggregator, and creator. I have a vested interest, albeit transparent, in people thinkly highly of content and wanting more of it.

But content is not king. We must settle that first. Credibility is King, with Presentation as its Queen.

Credibility level is perceived within the first 15 seconds of a user landing on a website, according to Stanford Persuasive Technology Institute.


The data showed that the average consumer paid far more attention to the superficial aspects of a site, such as visual cues, than to its content.

For example, nearly half of all consumers (or 46.1%) in the study assessed the credibility of sites based in part on the appeal of the overall visual design of a site, including layout, typography, font size and color schemes.

This reliance on a site's overall visual appeal to gauge its credibility occurred more often with some categories of sites then others.

Consumer credibility-related comments about visual design issues occurred with more frequency with finance (54.6%), search engines (52.6%), travel (50.5%), and e-commerce sites (46.2%), and with less frequency when assessing health (41.8%), news (39.6%), and nonprofit (39.4%) sites.

In comparison, the parallel Sliced Bread Design study revealed that health and finance experts were far less concerned about the surface aspects of these industry-specific types of sites and more concerned about the breadth, depth, and quality of a site's information.


If the design, colors, ads, and overall atmosphere of a site is sleazy, amateur, unbusinesslike, pretentious, sloppy, ugly, error-ridden, broken, or inappropriate, that user will leave, never to return.

Credibility depends on visual appearances, graphic style, first. If a user can't get past this aspect of a site, they'll never get to the content, no matter how genius and relevant and entertaining it may be. Next, credibility is judged quickly by rhetoric, grammatical errors, typos, poor language usage, badly flowing ideas, and if it sounds like a foolish braggart or a bullying sales jerk. There are many ways to screw up your visual design and your textual content.

You can have brilliant marketing strategy, superior online promotions, ultra-professional web design, cutting edge widgets and technological enhancements, customized search engines, auto-morphing ecommerce pages, and fantastically competent interpretations and implications of Google Analytics stats.

And still blow it with your customers and potential recruits. Yes, I said recruits. All your marketing is automatically for customers and future employees. People judge who they want to work for, largely based on how a company presents itself. Most people visit your website and blog to see who and what you are.

Online credibility begins with the instant impression caused by the graphic design, then the presentation of the content and its quality.

Later, we'll go more deeply into major mistakes most websites and blogs make in the realm of credibility, trustworthiness, and reliability.

1 comment:

B.L. Ochman said...

I agree wholeheartedly about the importance of graphic design, and lament the overall lack of it online.

And you are so right that credibility is king, but you only get that royal status from consistently great content. So maybe trust and content are king and queen and design is prince?