The Unexpected Factor That Could Be Sabotaging Your Marketing Content

Do you want your website to convey trustworthiness? What about having a site whose audience has enough confidence in the content that they continuously recommend it to friends? Do you want your site to convey so much assurance that your brand becomes a trusted source?

I’m going to guess that the answer is an overwhelming YES! All of that sounds pretty good!

How to achieve that goal of being trustworthy might surprise you. Being a trusted site means better conversion rates, whether that’s buying a product or subscribing to a newsletter, so it’s an important goal to achieve.

From SEO and branding to conversion rates and more, your site’s web design plays a major role in how your brand is perceived by consumers online. If you want a trustworthy site then looking to your web design would be a step in the right direction. Obviously having well-written, informative content is extremely important, but having a good web design will better ensure people will actually see that amazing content.

Let’s think about our own personal experiences. Ever find yourself wasting time browsing through Pinterst? I do it a lot and there have been times when I’ve clicked on a pin (of some amazing Blake Lively-esque dress or a NEEDED owl wine rack) and I will end up on a site that screams SCAM, DANGER, VIRUS AHEAD. It’s disappointing and it’s kind of nerve-racking. You start worrying if any information could have been hacked just from the short visit. No one likes that feeling and I’m sure you’ve had it before, visiting a sketchy site by mistake.

It can be blatantly obvious sometimes what is wrong with a site’s design and why you don’t find it trustworthy. Sometimes, however, it’s not so obvious and it’s harder to pinpoint. Well, through this article, we’re going to figure out why design plays such a big role in conveying trustworthiness.

To help understand how website design impacts your site, let’s look at how poor design can sabotage and how good design can elevate:

It takes only 1/10th of a second to form a first impression about a person, and websites are no different.

Looking at the above picture, it’s easy to see immediately that the sloppy posture, bored look, and relaxed clothes of the middle person presents a bad first impression for a job interview.

There is no shortage of articles about dressing for the job you want or how making eye contact and firm handshakes make all the difference. It seems that everyone should be aware by now that they will be judged on their first impression (no matter how unfair that seems), and should be taking it seriously in professional settings.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking your website doesn’t get the same treatment or doesn’t need the same type of how-to guide for nailing that first impression.

Google conducted research that found it takes about 50 milliseconds (that’s 0.05 seconds) for users to form an opinion about your website. That opinion is whether they like your site or not and whether they’ll stay or leave. A chance of convincing a new customer might be gone before they’ve even seen the awesome content!

So, what determines trustworthiness?

“Do different design and information content factors influence trust and mistrust of online health sites?” This was the question posed by a 2004 study. Although it is a study of health websites specifically, the findings can be applied to any business website.

Here is an important finding from the research: Of all the factors that were mentioned for rejecting or mistrusting a website, 94% were design related; only 6% were content related. This means, when deciding whether or not they trusted a website, participants mentioned design related issues 15 times more than content related issues!

Quick look at design-related reasons for mistrusted websites:

  • Complex, busy layout –  easy to navigate and expected layouts are wanted! No one wants to have to work hard to find information!
  • Boring web design – lack of color and lack of graphics are a no go, but also color that is off-putting or makes print hard to see and graphics that are too distracting are even worse!
  • Slow introductions to the website – Better start looking to responsive design and working on sites that load in absolutely no more than 3 seconds!
  • Small print – your content is the most important thing so do not make it difficult to read or find!

People have established ideas of what they expect something to look like, this is called prototypicality. Google, in the same study, confirmed that it applies to web design too. Sites need to have a certain look and essence for them to feel trustworthy.

Let’s look at an example because prototypicality is easier to understand visually:

This website above does not look how a restaurant website is expected to look. It look dated and unlike modern layouts. Some of the graphics won’t even show up, unfortunately. It’s busy and isn’t clear. This site doesn’t provoke trust.

This website’s design is more of what is expected. Information is easy to find and the layout is similar to many other pizza shop websites. It has a strong, clear color scheme that evokes much more trust than the other website.

From these examples, it’s not hard to guess which website would receive more views and gain more customers.

Your eyes probably looked at:

  • The institution’s logo.
  • The main navigation menu.
  • The site’s main image
  • The site’s written content

This is what most people glance at QUICKLY when determining if they trust the design.

  • The bottom of a website
  • The search box

These are also design elements that are quickly judged. Make sure that all of these elements on your site are presented well. It makes a difference in how long someone will stay on your site!

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.


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Participants trusted sites with:

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

Here’s a trick I learned pursuing journalism: try and keep things on a 4th grade reading level. Do that unless there is a real need to use advanced vocab, like for technical terms and technical subjects, but always simplify as best you can. Information should be easily accessible.

  • Discussion groups

What better way to show that a site is trustworthy than to let consumers discuss their experiences, needs, and insights on the site. It shows that you have nothing to hide and value their opinions. Also prove that endorsements are genuine by allowing consumers to add a name and profile picture. Location info and social links lend even more weight to the endorsement. This can easily be done by linking through Facebook or other social sites, or allowing blog comments. Having a social footprint is helpful in establishing credibility these days.

  • Frequently asked questions

I love FAQ sections because it reminds me that there are tons of people out there that get just as confused as I do. When the FAQ section is helpful, I’m pretty much in love with the website.

The takeaway from all this information:

Sites with bad design get dismissed EVEN if content is good

BUT, if sites have good design then visitors can focus on the content instead.

And people like content!

I’ve taken my share of graphic design courses and have my share of graphic design friends, and we would all agree that for design to be considered good it must be essentially unnoticeable.

I just gave you advice that would usually cost four years of art school to receive. Don’t forget it!

 Web design directly interacts with SEO. Here’s how:

Each design feature you use has the potential to affect search rankings (like using Flash and the structure of HTML).

One thing that is smart to consider when establishing web design is the use of mobile devices. Search engines are starting to look for sites that have responsive design elements (meaning they load fast on any device and all of their content can be accessed through any device).

This is important information because ultimately you want your content to be seen. Design affects if it will, and by how many. Just reinforcing the point here!

Web design directly affects conversion rates. Here’s how:

Make sure you have these elements of your site designed properly:

  • navigation
  • wording
  • color

These three elements determine how people will interact with your site. You want them to find it easy and accessible to take each step in your conversion process (navigation), you want to use words that will have a direct impact on conversion rates (wording, obviously) and you want calls to action to be bold and easy to see (color).

Again, just reiterating the point of how important good web design can be to your brand!

In conclusion:

Let’s not forget that happy customers are, really, the best way to build confidence in your product and brand. Just remember, those customers looking at your site first by using good design elements will be the first step in gaining trust.

Your content is the most important part, but no one will give reading it a chance if they feel the site isn’t up to their standards or trustworthy. Remember that it only takes 0.05 seconds for someone to make a decision about your website, based on appearance.

The benefits of good web design are far reaching: SEO, branding, and conversion rates. Don’t let a poor design sabotage your amazing content and turn potential customers away.

Do you agree with me on the importance of web design? At AutoGrow we create compelling content and then design around it, but still create a thoughtful web design. What do you think of this strategy? Or, feel free to comment with more examples of bad vs good web design! That’s always fun.


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