You CAN judge a book by its cover

When it comes to the internet, it’s a Beauty Contest first, brains and content second. But if you don’t have both eye catching graphics and intelligent content, you won’t keep a customer long. Just Pixels provides your client with the perfect mix of eye candy and food for thought.

How Do People Evaluate the Credibility of Your Website?

In short – by the way it looks. Top-notch graphic design gives your website audience a feeling of security and trust. But, that’s not all. The web audience also wants the information organized, and focused. Share the motive of your company, and you’ve made the audience very happy. How do we know this? There’s a study! Details about that study later. First – what the heck is up with the graphic design?

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

The credibility factor most frequently mentioned by the study participants was “Design Look.” This factor was so important, it beat the next most important factor by 60%! The study found that, if a web user came to a sight with weak, unprofessional graphic design – they abandoned the site. Not another click! They wouldn’t even dig-around to find any valuable content. That’s right – if your graphic design sucks, you lose potential customers.

Martha Stewart or Oxy-Clean?

The graphic design that most frequently inspired a sense of credibility was noted as, “a polished, professional look.” Participants also noted that sites that seemed “slick” and created by a marketing team did NOT convey credibility. A website that appeared serious in look-and-feel, with a bit of an entertaining flavor was found to be the most successful. Graphic design that looked like direct mail or a late-night “Web Designers Gone Wild” commercial conveyed no sense of credibility. What do we learn from this? Don’t get too goofy. Let the graphic design express the personality of your business – but don’t get too slick!

Click Click Click Click Click Mania

Participants in the study even mentioned they understood that this reaction to graphic design was superficial – that the graphic design MAY not be an accurate reflection of the content. They also said, “So?!” The web audience of today clicks at a rapid pace. They are in a fast and furious search for information. They click like crazy trying to find some tidbit of value – a little nugget of gold. When a website is visited, the very first visual cue about the content, or credibility, of the website is the graphic design – the look and feel of the site. It’s the “first impression.” So, you’re in a hurry – here’s some artwork that looks like it was created by your babysitter… seeya! Close that site and it’s on to the next website. The superficial nature of this reaction is driven by impatience. But it’s real – we gotta deal with it!

Pixel Perfect Plan

Just Pixels has some opinions about the graphic design of your website. And they reflect some of the lessons learned by this study. We’ve known, for a very long time, that the look and feel of any interactive products is crucial to a successful user experience. For a website the graphic design should be sophisticated and help the user understand how the information is organized – like a really good road map, it helps you find your way to the desired destination or information. The graphic design should also reflect the corporate identity of your company or product. Your personality should be reflected in the way the information is presented. The graphic design must be lean – small in terms of kilobytes – so it doesn’t take hours for the beautiful solution to download over the internet. The graphic design solution must help inform and entertain your audience. If it doesn’t your audience will disappear. Remember this – there is no audience less patient than the web audience. Make them happy and grab their attention right away or kiss ’em good-bye.

Working with America Online helped Just Pixels understand how impatient and fickle the web audience can be. AOL is constantly performing their own studies and testing. One of the most interesting facts uncovered by AOL is that most members don’t read more than two or three paragraphs of story text. More than that and you lose ’em! Guess that means, if you are still reading this, you are NOT a typical AOL member.

Walk It Like You Talk It

This is really interesting – the results of this study were compared to previous studies. Surprise, surprise! What participants SAID they valued in website evaluation was NOT reflected in the way they DID evaluate. In other words – web users don’t really DO what they SAY! You may hear web users talk about what makes a website valuable – the real test is watching and tracking how they use websites. Previous studies found that web users valued things like the “Privacy Policy” on a website. In reality, less than 1% of web users ever LOOK at a privacy policy. Why? Remember that point about fast and furious? Your audience is simply in too big a hurry!

Says Who?

Stanford University and Consumer WebWatch (affiliated with Consumer’s Union and Consumer Reports magazine) conducted this study of more than 2,500 web users. The participants spanned various demographic groups and depth of web experience – so your audience was in there somewhere. The study took place in 2002 with final results being released in October of 2002. The final tally of credibility factors includes 18 categories, the most important of which were:

  • Design Look
  • Information Design/Structure
  • Information Focus
  • Company Motive
  • Information Usefulness
  • Information Accuracy
  • Name Recognition and Reputation

For more details and the complete report click the link below:
“How Do People Evaluate a Web Site’s Credibility?”

Digging Deeper

JustPixels is dedicated to the study of research like this report. We constantly find and review the results of studies and surveys. Keep your eyes on this site for future news about new studies and the opinions of JustPixels. Please contact JustPixels for additional information about this news and inquire about how we can help your website!