Study Says: Websites with Better Design are More Trustworthy

Bryce Propheter posted this in
Web Design
on April 2nd, 2013

Your business survives by exchanging goods or services for money. But in order to convince people to hand over their money, you first need to get them to trust you.

There are a number of ways you can do this, but one study suggests that a good web design can actually make your website more trustworthy.

A study of healthy websites

In Trust and Mistrust of Online Health Sites, researchers attempt to understand the question, “Do different design and information content factors influence trust and mistrust of online health sites?“

And although this is a study of health websites specifically, the findings can be applied to just about any business website.

Mistrusted websites have bad design

In short, people mistrust websites because of poor design.

The study found that when describing why participants mistrusted a website, 94% of the comments were design-related while only 6% of the reasons for distrusting a website were content-related.

Some of the design-related reasons participants mistrusted websites:

  • Complex, busy layout – Unusual layouts were cited as being less trustworthy. Participants were looking for an easy-to-read and expected layout.
  • Boring web design (especially use of color) – One of the participants had this to say about a mistrusted website, “And one of them I didn’t like the color of. I couldn’t wait to get out it was an insipid green backdrop it just put me off reading it.”
  • Pop-up advertisements – Most people find pop-up ads annoying. And this study points out that they also hurt your website’s credibility. If your company relies heavily on being trustworthy (home security, financial institutions, etc.) Avoid pop-ups.
  • Slow introductions to the website – Besides being clunky and slow, website intros can make web visitors hit the back button.
  • Small print – Content is the cornerstone of you website. It’s what people are looking for. So don’t hide it. Make sure the content on your website is easy to read.

Trusted websites have good content

When participants were asked for reasons that they mistrusted websites, design was the most-cited reason. However, when asked for aspects of websites they trusted, content factors were mentioned 83% of the time.

Participants trusted sites with:

  • Informative content
  • Relevant illustrations
  • Wide variety of topics covered
  • Unbiased information
  • Age-specific information
  • Clear, simple language used
  • Discussion groups
  • Frequently asked questions

This seems to imply that websites with bad design will be dismissed quickly, even if the content is good.

“In cases where the participants did not like some aspect of the design the site was often not explored further than the homepage and was not considered suitable for revisiting at a later date.”

Yet, if the design is good, it goes almost unnoticed, with visitors focusing on the content, instead.

What this means for your website

Good design is not good enough. Neither is good content. To have a truly successful business website, you must have both! Ignoring either one can have catastrophic results.

What do you spend more time/money/energy/effort on - content or design?

Bryce Propheter

Content Manager

Bryce was born and raised in the Arizona desert and has never called anywhere else home. That may be why his definition of a lake or river is likely much different than yours. At Rocket Media he leads the Content team (and hates writing about himself in the 3rd person.) Also, Bryce's favorite coworker is Aaren because he never modifies his copy when adding it to websites.