Professional looking (and sounding) websites increase sponsor and visitor trust

How important is the quality of your website to attract advertisers? What do potential sponsors look for when approaching a blog or site about tenancy ads, a sponsored post, or a newsletter feature?

Your sponsor wants the visitor click an ad or link on your site, and is looking at the trustworthiness of your site as it leads your visitors to proceed to their product or service. But what makes your site trustworthy?

This is Craig of craigslists response to an article about YouTube advertising efforts. This article suggests:

…the Associative Property of Advertising: the real value of an advertisement, to the advertiser, lies not in the ad itself, but rather in its context.

So what is the context around the ad? It’s the site itself, from the content to the overall design. There is a lot of truth about perceived professionalism and trustworthiness and what that brings to a website and sales (the story of my life: fake it until you make it). Make a site look/seem pro, and more people will want to advertise there, and this has been true on the much smaller scale of my pet blogs. But what’s more important…. the content you write, or how you’ve designed your website?

Background and what this means for your site

Studies, such as this study on Trust and Mistrust of Online Health Sites, suggest that design is a primary aspect of what makes a site trustworthy to a visitor. The goal of this particular study was to measure the impact of design on trust and mistrust of health websites compared to the quality of the content, and design came out on top.

When people were asked about why they mistrusted a website, 94% of the issues surveyed were related to design; however, only 6% of the reasons they didn’t trust a site were content-related.

Therefore, you can write amazing content but it could be ignored or overlooked with a poorly designed site.

Some of the reasons users didn’t trust a website include:

  • A complex and overly busy layout
  • Poor navigational aids and search
  • A boring design, poor color choice, or an overly corporate feel
  • Pop-ups
  • Small or too much text

The study concluded:

The look and feel of the website was clearly important to the participants. Visual appeal, plus design issues relevant to site navigation appeared to exert a strong influence on people’s first impressions of the site. Poor interface design was particularly associated with rapid rejection and mistrust of a website. 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…The main reason that websites were rapidly rejected was due to the design of the interface. Design issues affected first impressions and could lead to the mistrust of a website.

Therefore, if a user doesn’t trust the site they might avoid clicking links and ads on your site. And this directly affects how interested a sponsor might be in purchasing an article or space on your site. If you operate a blog, your sponsors want your visitors to trust your opinion (quality content), but also that you take your site seriously as a professional (quality graphics and layout). As the opinion piece mentioned above states, quality perception has a lot to do with the overall look and feel:

perceived quality of the content: advertisers are willing to pay ten times as much for professional TV shows than they are for general YouTube video.

If you have an e-commerce site, trustworthiness is extremely important too. Your visitors want to know that they will receive their products, that their data is safe, and what you deliver is quality. Some people even claim that if a site looks like money was spent on the design, then money must have been spent on security. In the mind of the typical visitor, at least.

As such, it’s important to consider the overall context of your website and whether potential advertisers/customers find it suitable for an ad or worthy enough for a purchase.

So what should you focus on?

This is a huge topic on its own, but in a nutshell a professional site may include any of the following elements for its design and content:

  • Professional looking design. This can include graphics, logos, overall branding, and color choice. Improve quality perception.
  • Usable site. Easy to navigate and find information, not only articles but contact details and related social accounts if applicable.
  • Content and writing. Thoughtful articles with attention to detail and quality writing.
  • Attention to legal requirements. Creative commons or copyright notices, FTC disclosures, and Privacy statements.
  • Easy to contact site owner. You have an easy to find contact form and/or email address, and possibly other social media points of contact.

What do you think?

What do you feel the perceived quality of your website is? Have you hit all the marks? Most of our sites are a work in progress, especially if they’re new like this one. How far along is your website, and what are your biggest challenges?

Let us know in the comments, and let us know what you need help with so we can create resources that best meet your needs.

Author Jen deHaan

Jen deHaan is a freelance graphic and web designer, fascinated with great layout and usability. She has been working in the software industry since 2001, and has held positions with Macromedia, Adobe, and Motorola in the Silicon Valley area near San Francisco. Jen has written and contributed to over 20 print publications on web design that have been published by Peachpit, Adobe Press, and Wiley. She now lives on a farm with her family and dogs in central Vancouver Island, Canada.

More posts by Jen deHaan

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Jen Jelly says:

    I am quick to judge a sites trustworthiness based on design, at least when I’m considering buying something or registering. When I bought my home I changed the heating to a geothermal system – a few months later when I had to buy more air filters I couldn’t find any large enough locally. I couldn’t even find them on amazon or any other big brand sites. I finally stumbled onto a site that sold in the size I needed and I was scared to give them my damn credit card number. The site was really, really bad. I did it anyways, but it was a ripoff – they just taped two air filters together into the size I needed. At least I now know I can do that on my own… But yes – the appearance of a site is extremely important when it comes to trustworthiness.

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